Yoga Teacher Training: Module II Begins

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Last week was a rough one. Despite having fun celebrating my birthday early in the week, I felt depressed and depleted. In addition to dealing with chronic symptoms of my thyroid disease, I had to contend with a rejection that I took pretty hard.

On Friday, I returned to yoga teacher training after our holiday hiatus. I had to drag myself there, but once I had arrived, I immediately began to feel better. Doing my practice, learning and talking about yoga, and being with my awesome teachers and yogi friends helped my mood immensely.

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Twinning with my teacher

This weekend, we workshopped forward folds. This is not my favorite category of poses, mostly because I’ve been injured doing them. This isn’t uncommon. Our teachers, Leigh and Gigi, told us injuries in forward folds happen much more frequently than in backbends, which you might not guess just looking at the structure of the postures. Folds often look fairly simple and innocent–but that’s kind of the problem. Practitioners tend to use less caution bending forward than going back or upside down. People who are naturally flexible are especially at risk: it’s easy to overstretch in these poses and to neglect to engage the proper supporting muscles.

If you’re on the stiffer side, consider yourself fortunate that you’re much less likely to injure yourself in forward folds, and in yoga in general!

Though folds aren’t my favorite, they’re enormously beneficial poses, and I found this asana lab particularly important since we learned a lot of helpful cues and modifications.

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Thank you Leigh for this photo from Christina’s workshop

Another highlight of this weekend was our field trip to Wanderlust Yoga in downtown Austin for a workshop with Christina Sell, our teachers’ teacher, on the fundamentals of down dog and up dog. It was an amazing session. Christina is incredibly knowledgable and passionate about yoga and in addition possesses the magical ability to distract you from the difficulty of what you’re doing with her sense of humor. Somehow the fact that you’ve been holding plank for approximately five days becomes more ok when you’re laughing.

We finished off the weekend with an alignment-based practice today as well as some lessons on ayurveda.

I am exhausted and possibly in need of another Epsom salt bath, but I am so grateful for this weekend and the amazing people with whom I practiced.

Begin Where You Are

 

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Before tonight, I had not taken a yoga class in a week and half.

Which may not sound very long, but when you’re a regular practitioner and you’re supposed to be racking up a lot of hours for yoga teacher training…it’s a good while. I also fell out of my meditation routine while we were on our Nevada trip. I’ve been doing asana here and there at home and meditating every once in a while, but it’s certainly not the daily practice I had been maintaining.

These are the times I tend to struggle the most, when I’ve gotten out of my self-care routine for whatever reason. This time, it was due to travel (even though I love trips and I love visiting my hometown, it can be very difficult to maintain your good habits when your environment and schedule changes) and to a flare-up of chronic symptoms, which caused me to feel pretty sick for a while.

That doesn’t stop me, of course, from automatically turning on the self-blame: You should have practiced anyway. If you hadn’t eaten too much sugar during the holidays, this wouldn’t be happening. You’re obviously not a real yogi. Now that you haven’t practiced for this long, it’s too late.

That last one is especially insidious. That’s that good ol’ perfectionistic ego telling me that since what I do is never enough, I might as well not even bother.

You might know what I’m talking about if you’re, well, a human.

It can be very tempting to listen to that voice. Because your defenses are already down, and you’re feeling some combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. And it’s much easier to do nothing than something, especially in that state.

But today, I finally got to a yoga class–a nice beginning hatha session at a nearby studio.

I was feeling tired and down and not in the state of mind or body to go to a vinyasa class. My ego thought, Well if you can’t do that, might as well lie on the couch watching more Netflix and eating more chocolate. Yep, that sounds like the best course of action. Because everything sucks and you can’t do anything.

But today, I did it anyway. And it was lovely. It felt like what I needed in that moment, and that’s everything.

My supportive boyfriend also came with me and experienced his first public yoga class. Afterward, he said his back felt better–huzzah! The yogas, they work!

Anyway, the message in all of this: begin where you are.

That voice that tells you you’re not enough? It lies. That’s all it does.

We all have a picture in our heads of what we would like our practice, and our lives, to look like.

Sometimes when I imagine myself “doing my practice,” I’m in a candle-lit room, in which cool bohemian-looking decorations cover the walls and the early morning light is just beginning to peak through the windows (I rarely practice in the early morning). I’m in a perfectly understated and yet unique yoga outfit, and I’m moving through my vinyasa practice with grace and control, little sparkling beads of sweat gathering on my body like sweet little dewdrops. Breathing deeply, I practice for an hour and half or more, and end in a beautiful, long savasana, after which I stand up, dab myself gently with an expensive towel made of finely woven unicorn hair, and smile softly.

What my actual at-home practice is usually like: I get onto my mat, which I’ve either rolled out on the living room floor or in our spare bedroom, which contains a nice little puja (altar) I created but also boxes full of clutter we don’t know where else to put. I do a little warm-up, some sun salutes, maybe a few standing poses, maybe a few sitting poses. Maybe a backbend. Savasana for five minutes while my cats poke at my face and meow for more food. I get up and maybe I feel good but maybe instead I feel pissed off, and by now my cat is dramatically heaving up a hairball just to get me back for not feeding her immediately upon command.IMG_3616

And that’s on a good day. Some days my practice is just lying on a block for ten minutes. Sometimes it’s just breathing.

It’s never going to be perfect. You just do what you can.

And maybe you haven’t practiced for a week or a month or a year. Maybe you feel like shit today. Maybe you’re feeling really depressed. Ok, so that’s where you are. Begin there. Maybe all you can do is breathe for one minute. Great, do it. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.

Take one step. Breathe one deep breath. Write one word. Eat one vegetable. Plant one seed.

And see what grows from there.

 

So this is the new year

 

IMG_2867…and I don’t feel any different. Does anyone else think of that Death Cab for Cutie song at the beginning of every new year?

I do feel a little different, however: I feel very, very…jet-lagged. My partner and I are back in Austin after a nice couple of weeks out west and back to the ol’ grind, but my brain still thinks we should be sleeping until 9am (11am Austin time!) and perhaps lounging around watching Food Network and reading good books.

I didn’t get to as many yoga classes as I would have liked to over the past few weeks, but I did make it to a few: a vinyasa class, a restorative workshop, and an Ashtanga class with Jen, the teacher who helped me really get into yoga years ago.FullSizeRender

This was the first year since I moved in 2012 that I’ve gotten to spend New Year’s Eve in Reno, and watching fireworks downtown with friends was a perfect way to ring in 2016.

I’ve been thinking about my intentions for the new year. Intentions are sort of like resolutions, but rather than putting the pressure on myself to “resolve” to do something, I like to think about what it is I really want to manifest and why. (My friend Lauren just posted about this as well). I find that more specific goals tend to develop naturally from there. That way, I know I’m coming from a good place.

My intention for 2016 is to nourish and to heal. As some of you might know, I have a myriad of chronic health issues I’ve experienced most of my life, and, thanks to a variety of factors including yoga, living in Austin, finding a good nutritionist, and getting some diagnoses nailed down, I feel that I’m on a better path to healing. This was the work of 2015. In 2016, I want to continue on this path. I’m getting more tests done, and I want to find the best ways I can to nourish my body, mind, and spirit. This simply means doing more of the things that make me feel good and less of the things that don’t. More green juice, less sugar. More reading, less mindless Facebook scrolling. More meditation and sunsets and fluffy animals, less focusing on things I cannot change.

While we were in Reno, we got out for some great walks along a snow-covered trail, which lifted my spirits and gave me a much-needed nature fix. After one of our hikes, I shared this on Instagram:

As we explore our intentions and wishes for the new year, it can be helpful to also note the things that ground us. Sometimes we get so focused on growing that we focus all our energy up and forget our roots.

So set your intention, and remember where you can return when you feel overwhelmed.

Happy new year, everyone.