Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

I frequently get asked if there are DVDs and/or books that I’d recommend for new students (or even experienced students). I just got an email from Yoga Journal offering a discount on the DVDs I like best.

The Step By Step series is a great introduction to yoga or even as a way to fine-tune your asana and breath practice. The coupon is 20% an individual DVD or something like 45% off for all three.  Enter coupon code SBS2 at checkout and click “Redeem Coupon” to receive your discount or call 1-800-I-DO-YOGA (436-9642).

I don’t plug a lot of yoga ‘stuff’ here, just the things I use and love myself. I highly recommend getting all three discs.

In related news, my recommendating for practicing with a DVD (whether you’ve practiced yoga previously or not) is to watch the DVD at LEAST once to make sure you’re familiar with the positions. If there’s anything that sounds confusing, make notes on a sheet of paper that you can keep next to your mat during practice. You should NOT be looking up at the DVD while you’re practicing – it’s bad for your body and negates all the good work you’re trying to do!


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Today we accomplished important task #1: putting me on  Spouse’s local bank account. That is pretty much all we did. We rented some movies, but have only watched one. Burn After Reading is an interesting and slightly bizarre film and totally worth watching just for Brad Pitt. I never thought I’d say that, but he’s just hilarious.

Up next: Hancock and Baby Mama.

Tomorrow: drive to Frisco and get my new driver’s license, as well as change over registration on vehicles and obtain Colorado plates.

When Mom and A left, they took the cold weather with them. Today was sunny and warm – 35 degrees. The snow on the roads has all melted, though it wasn’t enough to thaw all the rest of it. If you’ve looked at any of the photos, you’ll understand. Tomorrow is supposed to be just as sunny, though less warm. I’m very glad that I invested in good sunglasses.

I sent Mom home with an eclectic mix of music for her iPod. I’m interested to see how she’ll like it. Highlights included John Legend, Fergie, Adele, Rare Earth, The Eagles, The Beatles, Vampire Weekend, Gnarls Barkley, Sarah Harmer, and the Indigo Girls. There was a lot more, but I don’t recall everything.

My dad’s been on my mind a lot lately and it’s entirely possible that I’ll write about it tomorrow, but no promises.

I am looking forward to the house finally reaching ORDER and life returning to some semblance of a routine. As predicted, I’m a bit at a loss without my teaching schedule. Not only that, I’ve slacked on my own yoga practice for the last couple of weeks because of the acclimation. Someone sent me a yoga kick in the ass for Christmas, though, so I’m about to get back on the horse.

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But feel confused or intimidated – or you just aren’t sure how to practice on your own without a teacher – I’d highly recommend this special issue of Yoga Journal. It gives great descriptions of the asanas, some example ‘flows’ that you can work through on your own, and it talks about modification. Most importantly, it talks about inversions in terms of safety and strength, with none of the ‘reverse the flow of blood’ asshattery. You can order it from the site, either in hard copy or digital.

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It’s unusual for me to get into yoga diatribes very often. Most people I know do not practice yoga regularly and I don’t generally talk about my teaching philosophy unless I’m talking about classes. When most of the people you know don’t practice, it doesn’t come up in conversation that frequently.  This weekend, though, my mom and I were talking about the move and whether or not I’d teach yoga in Colorado.

I’d love to keep teaching. I enjoy it SO much and it would be great if I could keep on doing it. At the same time, I’m going to be in a new place setting up a new life and starting out is hard. As evidence, it’s taken me two years to get a serious following of students.

I teach to all levels and there are a few reasons for that. Most importantly, it’s because you never REALLY know what kind of limitations people are working with. Sometimes they’ll tell you if they’ve got an injury, more often than not they don’t. Second, people need to feel like they can choose their own workout. Providing modifications lets them do that. Third, when I’m doing my own asana practice I run through a checklist of things – foot placement, which muscles are active and how, how I can change the position. If it’s valuable to me after my years of practice, I’ve got to believe it’s valuable to others.

When I teach, I typically use the modified asana. It’s simple – given an option a) or harder option b), most people feel pressure to go with the harder option. By taking the modified version a) myself, I’m eliminating a competitive element in the class. It’s not about MY workout, it’s about the students. And the fact is that most students feel more comfortable using a modification if the instructor does.

This is all apropos, by the way, of my classes this week. In every single class this week, my students made their own modifications. Students who were relatively new and students who have been in my class for a while, relative beginners and folks with prior experience. In every. Single. Class. someone (or more than one someone) modified down to where they needed to be.

I don’t get all new-age catchphrase about yoga. I’m pretty pragmatic about practicing and its benefits. I don’t utilize chanting in my classes. But I’m going to tell you that it actually gladdened my heart to see my students do their own thing. It was like it filled me up with light each time. I thought, “I’ve done my job.” Because with yoga, you’re SUPPOSED to go at your own pace. You’re supposed to listen to your body and adjust your concentration. And by listening to your body you IMPROVE your concentration. You improve the connection between your body and your brain.

I’m incredibly sad to be leaving my students. I feel guilty about leaving them with limited options to find instruction. But this week, I thought “They can do this. I’ve done a good enough job. They can adjust in any classes they take.” My shoulders felt lighter. I felt accomplished.

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It’s hard to teach other yoga teachers.

Everyone comes to yoga with their own baggage (flexibility, health, stress, et cetera). Teachers have a little extra something, in that they’ve got a way of doing things that they’re used to and may think is the only ‘right’ way. In my experience, most teachers are pretty good about being able to pick and choose what they’re going to use and adapt themselves. It’s challenging though because you’re never quite sure how they feel about the class.

In the class I attended today, there was a beginning student and two teachers (me and another). It was a really good class, in terms of pacing and difficulty. I only had a couple of quibbles – and those come from my own experiences attending and teaching classes.

First, teach the modifications first. It’s difficult (especially for beginning students) to ‘drop down’. Everyone has a certain level of competiton in their nature and if you start with Hard and go to Easy, people almost never take the Easy option. If you start with Easy, more students are likely to stay there when they should. For this reason I also teach that even if your teacher doesn’t offer a modification, if there’s a mod that you like or use – use it anyhow. A good teacher won’t make you feel bad about that.

Second, make sure you’re balancing out the right and left side equally. We worked the right side a little longer in most positions. It happens pretty easily because you start describing what you’re doing and the students are holding the asana while that happens. Then you switch to the other side and don’t stay there as long because you don’t have to explain anything. This is why I wear a digital watch. I can time – to the second – how long we are where we are and make sure it equals out. Not sexy, but effective.

I really did enjoy the class and will probably be going back for more. I’m going to try all the classes to see if they’d be applicable for all or most of my students. The teacher was very nice and approachable and I got a nice solid workout.

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I know I get gushy about this probably more than people want to hear it, but I really really love my job. There has never been a single class where I’ve left and thought “Wow, that was crappy” or “Man, I totally just wasted my time.” In every single class, someone has an ‘a-ha!’ moment or at the end of class, there are big sleepy smiles. I get to put a little awesome in someone’s day and it is the best feeling ever.

It makes me sad that I’m leaving this area, just as I’m starting to REALLY have a following, but it’s nights like tonight that convince me I’ll keep teaching wherever I’m at. 

First classes are hard. I used to get really nervous that I’d trip over my words or give fumbling descriptions, or that someone would injure themselves. Now I don’t really get nervous. I worry that someone will leave and not have enjoyed the class, but that’s a subset to making sure that everyone in the room feels comfortable. I think I’m pretty successful at that. First classes are tough because there is SO MUCH STUFF going on in every stretch that you can’t talk about all of it. So trying to get enough in that people can choose the work they want to do, without overloading them or chattering nonstop, is a fine balance to strike.

Based on the feedback I get from students, my style seems to be very approachable and laid back. I show that I don’t take it too seriously and the students get comfortable pretty quickly. I also talk about how I’m lazy and cheap, so I think that helps. ;)

So yeah. Tonight was a nice class in a new place. Makes your brain work differently!

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I don’t really make a secret of how to tackle difficult asanas in yoga. One of the easiest ways to do it is attempt something harder. Then when you go back to the first thing, it’s not nearly as intimidating. You have to be careful, of course, not to pressure students too far and let them know it’s okay to dial it back or not go ‘all out’.

Today I had a request for Virbadrasana (Warrior) III! I love that because it’s challenging and we just did some work with it last week. Today we prefaced it with  a standing half-entry into Half Moon. We did a partial entry – standing on one leg, chest and hips open to the long side of the mat, and then leaning forward (block in hand) to find a balance point. After repeating it a couple of times, we came all the way in. Then we switched to Warrior III, which after Half Moon seems a lot less work.

There were big smiles and straight backs, and everyone made it into THEIR Warrior. Loved it.

P.S., that Glade commercial where they’re going the yoga? FAIL. Bad, bad, bad for your backs!


TV Notes:

NCIS: SHUT UP! They had the Numa Numa guy! I love that guy! Also, nicely done with the creepy serial killer.

The Mentalist: Love, love, love this show. Truly. Clever, engaging, and not afraid of doing the unexpected.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta: I adore Ed and Lisa. They are my favorite reality couple, evar. That said, I’ve never seen a show that better illustrates that money and class are not related. Also, What exactly has Sheree been successful at? She keeps talking about being a success but the only thing she seems to have done was get married and divorced. Weird.

In unrelated news, I discovered the Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP site via Jezebel. I’m not sure how I feel about sites that purport to tell you how to make your life better or happier by following their directions. I’m also suspicious of any site that endorses buying particular products (that includes Oprah) because it encourages people to not be happy with what they have. I’ll reserve full judgement until it’s all the way up, but I’m skeptical.

Tonight I am making a run to the bridal shop with Carly for her final dress try-on. There is more packing to be done, but I’m postponing it until after the wedding.

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