Accepting the Silence in a yoga practice

I already touched on how beneficial your Savasana is in practice, but what about those awkward silences during practice as well? You know, the ones you get when you hold a pose or when you begin to wind down the practice? Once the teacher has given all cues, maybe a couple jokes and has successfully guided the students into the pose that now needs to be held for a few breaths, even up to a minute. Now you’re sitting in your runners lunge, maybe even all the way down in lizard pose and your teacher has stopped giving any cues and has seemed to have completely forgotten about you. While you should only do what is comfortable in your body-and moving out of discomfort is definitely a good thing-your yoga instructor has most certainly not forgotten about you. And while the silence seems super awkward to you and you really don’t want to sit there for 3-6 breathes stretching out your hips in runners lunge, there is a purpose and it’s not just to make you sit there.

And I 100% guarantee you that your yoga instructor feels a teensy but awkward during the silence as well. Especially when it starts getting to those quiet down poses at the end of practice. We have spent the whole practice talking and guiding, making sure that we give the perfect amount of time for each posture and making sure each side is even. Suddenly we are supposed to sit quietly for seconds, even minutes as the class winds down and begins Savasana. We sit there helping people wind down, just waiting for them to be done. Often times for me I feel like something needs to be said, or it’s just too long of a time to be in a pose or maybe I wasn’t even enough with each side. But the silence is a key part of yoga, and often times it’s too rushed.

Silence, especially at the end of practice, is a wonderful way to wind down. Sure, guide the pose maybe add some flowing movement in but do so gently and once you say what needs said let the silence flow in. Once we begin to embrace the silence and learn to bring the silence into our own minds we can really begin to cool down and find some peace. Often times our minds are going a mile a minute during practice, but if we can embrace the silence and clear our minds we can begin to come to a more intense and profound practice.

I see so many people thinking that yoga is just the postures. Sure breathing is involved, but a lot of people just see those two aspects of yoga. They fail to see how much more yoga is.

For me yoga is a space I can go to on my mat, a space to clear my head and get into the zone and forget every other worry on in my life. This is how I am able to teach even as a social recluse. Once I start I am in the zone and I forget everything else. This is why instructors will sometimes encourage the sighs and long releases of breath. Yoga is the release and when you really get into it you begin to sigh out everything bothering you with life. This is also why teachers being with a simple pose, asking students to focus on breathing or clearing their mind.

When we tie in the silence with our breathing and holding of  posture we begin to come to this place on our mats where we feel safe and in control. We feel free, at peace and wonderful all at the same time. And once we come to the silence we can clear our minds and just enjoy the clear minded freedom, preparing ourselves for the rest of the day off of our mats.

So next time your holding your pigeon pose, or a supine twist, and you feel your mind wandering to the “is the DONE yet??” mindset take a deep breath and clear your mind and let everything fade away. Welcome in the silence and just take the time to sit with yourself, because when else are we going to take the time to sit in silence during our day? We need this time for ourselves and welcoming in the silence is one of the best things that you can do for you and your practice.

The 5 minute Savasana

Savasana is one of those things that everyone knows is super important but no one seems to give it the love and attention that it needs. When I was taking online yoga classes Savasana was like 30 seconds. It didn’t last long at all and I was always left longing for more time. They were online classes so I could extend my Savasana if I wanted, but it still seemed super odd to me that it was so short.

So when I finally began taking studio classes it was super nice that Savasana was at least a few minutes. I had time to cool down, clear my mind and prepare myself for the rest of the day off my mat. Savasana was not to be rushed, it’s probably one of the most important parts of your yoga practice and we really need to take the time to relax in it and take our mind into that mind space.

So when I started teaching, I made a huge effort to save that last 5 minutes of class for Savasana. I call it the 5 minute Savasana. While the class does not actually stay that long in Savasana, they get at least 2-3 minutes to wind down and then the 1-2 minutes to slowly wake back up and come to their seated position. Which most people in my classes take full advantage of. I have learned so many new Savasana tips from my class that I never thought of before.

One good tip I see is using a blanket in Savasana. Covering up and getting full into that relaxation for Savasana. If Savasana only lasts a matter of seconds then you don’t have the time to get that relaxed and into your space.

A longer Savasana offers a better cool down, a clearer mind and ties your practice together. And it’s important to give our muscles, as well as our mind, that time to rest and cool down after a sessions. And depending on the type of yoga you’re doing, it can be your key to a perfect practice.

If you’re doing mild yoga, especially before bed it can really help to bring you into that chill space especially for bedtime. The only time a Savasana isn’t relay used in a yoga practice is when you’re specially doing a short flow to wake up or build energy. Like a 15 minute session. Otherwise Savasana is key to almost every practice.

So next time you find yourself on your mat, try to extend your Savasana a little longer. Bring yourself to that clear minded space, prepare yourself for the rest of the day and really bring a nice close to your practice. A movie or a book just doesn’t end abruptly, there is always some sort of closure (unless you’re watching Infinity Wars apparently) and your yoga practice is the same way. Don’t leave yourself hanging on a cliffhanger. Go the distance and give yourself a wonderful ending.

And Savasana does not have to be traditional either. Find a different way to lay, use blankets, blocks and bolsters and get so comfortable in your Savasana. Play around with it and find whats perfect for you and your body. Really begin to love your Savasana, not just because we have to or it’s a nice rest after hard poses.

So take the time you need, find what works for you and enjoy the best ending you can possibly make for a practice. Self-care has many different faces, and a good Savasana can be one of the best ways to practice self-care.

Repeat Yoga Days

As a yoga teacher who gets the privilege of making all of my own flows and classes, I was terrified of doing a repeat class. What if the class remembered the flow, what if they were wanting something totally new. Some weeks it would be a struggle to put something together and most of the time it would be some variation of the other flows anyways. But just this last week in my class we did a pretty challenging flow, and while my class really loves these I don’t want to make them do something super challenging each class. So as sat there thinking what I would possibly make up for them, what I would possibly be able to do with them to give them some sort of break, I thought back to the basic power flow that was taught to us in teacher training. It had been a while since I had used that particular flow, and it was still energy building but without all of the work that the last flow had offered. So it would be a nice break.

But somewhere in the back of my mind I was terrified of using something that I had already used before, because somehow it felt like I was cheating or not doing the work that I should be. And honestly, this is a mindset that I would love to just kick to the curb.

For one thing, a lot of studios offer the same basic class. Which is why I was taught this flow in my teacher training because the studio used that as their beginner class. As they taught it to us they told us to learn in and go use it in our own classes. It’s not a bad thing to use something again and again, and some people really enjoy having a solid flow that’s the same thing every time. I mean, studios that use that method are clearly doing pretty well for themselves so something must be right with having a basic flow.

But I could not for the life of me think of a flow that would be a suitable change after something super challenging. I kept coming back to the basic flow. I mean it’s a good flow, it hits all the things you’d want in an energy flow yoga class and it really brings out the physical side of yoga without being too much work.

So why is it such a huge deal then when I want to do a repeat? And where did this mindset come from? Since clearly that is not what I was taught in training. As a yoga teacher, it can be a little nerve wracking getting up in front of people each week and presenting something that you made. Especially for me, the teacher training that I took did not spend a huge amount of time on the actual how to for making flows. I think we spent like 2 hours on that. A day at most. Which really, it should of been one of the main things we went over. So, you’ve got to make this flow and you already are like “what if they don’t like it?” and then you feel like you should of gotten more training in actually making your own flows as well.

Plus, not every flow is going to be a winner. It just isn’t, everyone is different and everyone likes different things. It’s natural that your flow just won’t resonate with someone that week. It happens to me sometimes as well, I just don’t like the flow and it’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the class or doing yoga but it’s not what I would have chosen for myself. And to cater to several people and all of their different likes, it certainly is a challenging career. I love yoga, and I love making flows. But it’s also really difficult at times as well.

I’m also not a huge social person. I’m just not. I’m not sure how I got to be a yoga instructor, and having to spend an entire hour talking to an entire class but I am. But it’s still hard for me, and I am human so I have all these doubts in my head about how I am teaching and how people like it. I’m sure as I teach even longer I will be okay, but for now it still feels new and fresh and I’m like “okay who trusted me to teach people this stuff.” so it can be slightly scary.

But once I let go of how people will perceive me, and I just go with what feels the best for class this time around, I get the best flows and ideas. And if a repeat is needed, then it’s needed. A huge part of it is just coming to terms with what I am feeling that week. What will feel the most right, what is going to be the best? And then I go with that.  I also base it off other weeks, while we are an energy flow class I do not want to make them work super hard each time. So if one class was more intense, the next one will be more mellow.

And in reality, repeating a flow that I used 3 months ago, isn’t going to be the end of my class. Yoga instructors have fears as well, however yoga really helps to focus on other things and not just the fear. And overcoming fears and doubts is a part of the teacher life. And chances are the class will really love the flow anyways, and most likely will not notices its the same exact flow. No one is THAT good at memorizing something they’ve done once. It took me ages to get that flow down and it did it everyday for months.

So, never be afraid to use a repeat flow. Never be afraid to take a repeat flow. Sometimes some repetition can be the best thing we need in life.

 

When you just don’t feel the yoga class: teacher edition

I’m not really sure if we’ve all been there on this one, but I definitely have. And I mean it only makes sense, especially if you’re a yoga teacher that has to make up a unique flow that is fitted towards the class you teach. It can get tiring, and honestly if you’ve already had a pretty rough week then you aren’t feeling the class at all.

You can’t just tell the class that either. There’s no option for yoga teachers to be like “okay guys, today I am just not in the mood I don’t think I can teach. I hate my flow, I could not think of anything better so just go home class is cancelled.” Nope, that is not an option. I mean, yeah maybe you could do that. But they came to class, sending them away is honestly just not okay. If you privately teach, maybe you could ask to reschedule but again that’s the pay for the day you won’t be getting. So we just kind of have to push through, and we’ve got to find a way to make it work. But how are we supposed to do that when we think of that flow we halfheartedly made, and we shudder at the very thought of teaching it the class?

Well, as someone who has been there (and epically failed through a class) I can give some pointers on how to get your game back. Or at least make it through your class.

  1. First, if you have the time then spend a little longer making the flow. A huge problem for me was I didn’t spend a ton of time on the flow that bummed me out. I didn’t even try it out to see if what I was doing was making sense. So spend a little extra time, try it out and just see what works.
  2. Go with something a little simpler and relaxing. Changing up what your normally do can throw you out of wack, but if you already aren’t feeling it and are having trouble coming up with a solid flow for the class try adding in a few simple flows to get the body moving. Most people are not picky about the yoga they just love to do it.
  3. Change things up a little bit. Honestly, this was a bit of the reason I was bummed out, and even having a hard time coming up with a great flow. Doing the same old in class is super great, but changing it up can ad variety and make things more fun for the class. Instead of doing pigeon pose every time try a different variation. People like Supine figure 4 a lot, and if they really feel like they need something in their practice they will take it. Try a new sun A flow, or add a new element into Sun B flows. I found a sun A flow in a yoga book I have that goes from kneeling prayer, to extended, to puppy, to cat, to down dog and then all the way back in the flow. It was fresh, interesting and went over well with the class. Now there is nothing wrong with keeping basic Sun flows and adding other elements after the flow, but sometimes mixing up the flows a little bit can really do a lot to the flow.
  4. Take advice with a grain of salt; people are always going to have something to say about your class. It was great, you could do this, maybe try this etc. Someone always has an opinion. I had a lady show up to my energy flow class, the most advanced class offered at where I teach and told me I should just slow it down a bit and that by flowing the class I made one student leave early. But that is the class, and she didn’t know the person who had left. The person who had left in fact goes to my other class and has been leaving early and doing their own thing since before I even took over any classes there. And while her advice was really solid and good, it still is a class with high energy flows and advanced poses. I had another lady tell me I used too many breath cues, which was a valid point because I do tend to focus a lot on the breathing in my flows. But yoga is also not yoga without your breath, so I can spend hours trying to figure out the perfect times to give (or not give) those cues or I can focus on making the flow wonderful for my class.
  5. Remember to have fun; this can be a huge thing to bring yourself down with teaching. You spend too much time trying to make the perfect flow, or meet all the demands etc you lose why you even started to teach in the first place. But have some fun with it, think of new themes or try a ridiculous pose that the class just try. Yoga doesn’t always have to be this work, it can be super fun. And if you’re having fun then they are having fun. And if we are having fun then we are adding a little bit of ourselves into the class, and people will gravitate toward that.

Teaching yoga can be so much work, but it doesn’t always have to be. And once we find ourselves stressing about the class, or just being totally bummed about it we need to step back and think about what we can change. If all else fails, just spend some quality time flowing on your mat and bring back the mindset you need to be able to teach.

The importance of breathing in yoga

Honestly, I get this question a lot, way more often then you’d think. And even from people who have been doing yoga for ages. “Why is the breath important?” Or some variation of this question. Like, “you give a lot of breath cues, it takes away from the flow.” Or “Do you need to say every inhale and exhale?” Which I mean, no I really don’t need to say to inhale to table top or exhale to sit. But the breath cues play a huge role in the practice and yes I really do need those inhales and exhales for twists and other postures that you don’t just dump yourself into.

So why is it that the breathing is such an important role in your yoga practice? And while I was taught in a very active from of yoga that requires breathing cues the entire time, it’s still a key element to every practice. Look up any well loved, and respectable, yoga instructor on youtube. They take a few minutes at least to chill out before practice and come to your breath and honestly its for good reason too.

Okay so let’s break this down then. First off the very definition of yoga is literally postures to breath. A form of active meditation, and honestly the postures are just a tiny bit of the yoga. A huge part of yoga is actually the breath work, meditation and all in all a good mind set and solid focus. It’s main goal is to bring in relaxation and meditation, maybe calming someone after a stressful day or bringing the focus that they need.

yo·ga
ˈyōɡə
noun
  1. a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.

I mean, the google definition of yoga is literally just that. Breath control, its a discipline for specific purposes. The thing is, breath is the LEAST talked about in a yoga practice. Like sure, we do little breath warm ups before we start, take some time coming to a good solid (deep) breath that will guide through the postures. But we don’t talk about it. And honestly that’s something that should be talked about, but when people come for a class that is 45, 55 or even 60 minutes long they don’t want time wasted talking about the breath. Because all in all, it’s not what matters to them and it’s not why they came. But it’s something that is huge, major, so important so we should at least mention why we do the breath and not just guide people through it hoping for the best or hoping that it somehow sticks.

Okay, so we know the definition, we know that technically it’s super important and huge, but why is it that way? Why is our breath the key?

First off, it does help your practice. Like a lot. Focusing on the breath can bring in a sense of peace and calm and really bring a person to that meditation mindset. Which sounds so cheesy, but honestly the best practices that I have had are the ones where I focus on my breathing and get into that mind set and just let everything else go. It’s empowering, and just really ties a practice together.

Second, it takes the focus off what you’re doing vs what you need. So instead of focusing on the posture that you need to hold for a frustratingly long time, you breathe. And while it’s still not a simple task to chill out in side plank you can at least breathe through it and in turn strengthen yourself in the long run.

Third, strength. You could hold your breath during your side plank, but then your muscles are kind of just chilling out super tight. But if you add in the breath work, it’s just that. Work. Your muscles end up doing even more work, and while it doesn’t actually seem like it you can see results. I have had so many great side planks when I just remember to breathe it out.

Fourth, it actually makes postures easier. GASP! I know that this kind of ties in with the second point, but have you ever done crow pose and just couldn’t do it? Yeah, same. I struggled with it so much. Or a headstand? Yeah those too. But once I learned to breath my way through it (also ENGAGE those abdominal muscles) then I found my balance to be much better and more steady. I am a pro at crow now, and while it took a ton of work to get there my breath work certainly helped me a lot.

Fifth, it literally matches flowing or vinyasa yoga perfectly. Each breath you take you do a pose. Inhale rise, exhale fold etc. It makes the practice flow quite beautifully, and while the constant reminder to breath during your practice seems tedious and quite annoying there is a point to it. Trust me, yoga teachers aren’t just saying it for kicks. If you’re into vinyasa style yoga then you need to have the breath, otherwise your just moving around on a mat.

All in all, breath plays a huge role in yoga. If you’re simply just looking for a workout that is fine, yoga can provide that as well. Breathing can help make it more intense for you though. But if you’re looking to expand in your yoga practice then work on the breath. Explore the different options that are out there and find the best one for your practice. It will make all the difference.

It happened for a reason

A while ago I had posted a blog post about disappointment, after having not got the yoga job that I had my eyes on I was a little more than disappointed. You can read more about it here. Even though I had told myself that it was happening for a reason, I had still had my heart set on that one particular job. At the time I thought that was where I needed to be, the job that I needed to do. It was my end all be all. The road to recovery was a long process, but I managed to get through a rather dark time in my life. And as of late, I am beginning to see why having my heart set on one thing is not always the best way to look at things. You see, recently I did manage to find a yoga job. Months later, after my first initial searches and after my bitter period of rejection, I found something that is going to be even better. This is a story, a journey, of realization of one human who thought one job was the end all be all of life.

Months after the audition and my inevitable heart break, my sister and messaged me telling me that our local YMCA was looking for substitute yoga teachers. I was a little hesitant at first, and upon my recent searching had not found any job postings for yoga positions at the Y. I had already sent out several emails, with no response, and applied to the yoga jobs that I could find- again with no response. I had mentioned in my post about disappointment that I was interested in teaching yoga for athletes. I contacted my old alma mater but to no avail. No response, not even an acknowledgement that anyone had even received my emails. At this point I was not going to take anything personal, if they were not interested in the offer than that was on them and not a testament about me. So when my sister told me that she got the Mind and Body Coordinators card from the YMCA I emailed that same week. Immediately I got a response, and a link to the newly posted job. I filled out the job posting application as fast as anyone possibly can with an online app. With the job application filled out, a meeting set up later in the week I was feeling really good about everything. But I held that thought in the back of my mind, refusing to let myself be too hopeful incase of impending disappointment.

After the meeting, a date was set for me to demo teach a class for them. After discussing the options of how I could demo my teaching skills a full class was settled on, after admitting that I can still get a little nervous it was mutually decided that maybe I should just try for a full on class. So that is what I did.

I was nervous as all get out, I spent the whole night before I had to go an audition with my heart pounding so fast it felt like I had just run a sprint. I couldn’t sleep. I had to keep reminding myself all the way up until the audition to breathe. Just breathe, breathe, breathe. I forgot to do my demo, I was too nervous to do any assists, and I felt like I had modeled some poses way too much.

But none of that mattered to the YMCA. They want teachers to be themselves, to bring their own things to class and make each class they teach their own. I was so new this type of thinking. Having taking my training at a power yoga studio, everything was set in stone. There is a technique that you have to follow, and you can not stray from it. I was used to being told exactly what to do. So when it was made clear that I have this whole new freedom, I began to blossom.

I was offered a class to teach, as I stood in shock being told this I was trying to wrap my mind around anyone wanting me to actually lead a class. I went in expecting to be a sub, which in my mind was a wonderful place to start. I could gain the experience that I needed. They told me that they could not believe that was my first class I ever taught. To be fair, I couldn’t really believe it either. I had actually made it through the whole class, I was not all shaky and I felt as if it flowed very smoothly. I got a lot of thanks after I was done teaching. Practicing in your training is so different from leading an entire class, and I was honestly nervous to mess up in front of so many people. I did pretty well though. And the class I taught was well received. That is the difference in the YMCA staff. They gave me feedback as soon as I was done, they encouraged me and told me how much they enjoyed what I taught. They didn’t act like they were better than me, they thanked me and they told me exactly what they thought and how excited they were for me to be teaching.

Long story short, I have this amazing job at the Y now, and I feel like this is really the best place for me. It’s non-profit, which in my opinion is the best. I want my focus to be on helping people, on bringing yoga to people. I feel as though at the YMCA, I will have every opportunity to do just that. I am so blessed to be able to have this opportunity, and so excited to be starting on a brand new journey with yoga. I am doing training now but will be transitioning into teaching as soon as I finish my training.

Maybe in the spring I will go back and re-try to audition at the same studio. I will have more experience at least. But right now, I am going to be able to enjoy this opportunity of just being there for people and for the community. I don’t have to worry about teaching “well” enough anymore, or wonder what it was that I had done wrong. Maybe I just wasn’t right for that place, maybe I didn’t fit the strict standards of teaching, or maybe I was just destined to be here at the YMCA, where I can really learn to care for and help others. Either way, I can be happy and fully content with where I am at.

Back into blogging

Hey guys this will be super short. Sorry for not posting often and like not at all, I needed some mental health days like desperately bad. Which ended up with me playing lots of Minecraft and falling in love with survival mode. I also became addicted to streaming on Twitch because if I’m going to waste the day playing I might as well share right? Gaming therapy! Weird, but I do love me some good games. So now that I am back to my fully peppy self I am planning lots of blog posts to come with some super tasty recipes! I have a homemade vegan pasta, homemade vegan cinnamon rolls AND homemade vegan chocolate cake all coming up as well as some zero more zero waste tips including how to deal with being zero waste when you’re just not feeling it, what to do about books and paper and more.

I also have some exciting yoga news as well coming soon, and I am making up flows like MAD and will soon be sharing those as well that you can totally feel free to take, use and modify for your own use.

Comment below if you would like it if I started doing some yoga flows on youtube plus some other things like baking and shopping.

Okay so I have already run the limit on this short post, that’s all I have for now. If there are any topics that you want me to cover please comment down below. I thrive on feedback so please feel free to pester me 🙂

Thank you for all your understanding and I promise to be back on schedule very soon. Also kitten picture because they are so cute! I love my kitties.