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.

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.

“Yoga isn’t for me”

Yoga. What do you hear when someone says those words? Do you envision someone twisted up? So flexible you can’t figure out which part is up or down? Or do you see a group of people bowing down to a statue, humming along with their movements in some strange form of worship. Or do you see a fitness group that is only for those thin girls that are able to manipulate their bodies into a pose so difficult your body aches just thinking about it?

No matter what we know about yoga, we all have these preconceived notions about what it actually is. We have this picture about what it’s supposed to be, and we think that we need to fit into these narrow standards. If we don’t fit into the standard view of what yoga is then clearly, it’s just not for us.

So many people have said this to me, I have to literally bite my tongue and watch myself for fear of rolling my eyes and lecturing every person who has those words fall from their lips. As I explain to someone that I am a certified instructor, I get the typical “Oh that’s so nice for you to be doing that. There is no way I can do that.” That’s just the most basic of replies I get, I have gotten several other replies before consisting of “I’m not flexible enough” “don’t you need to be able to touch your toes?” “Yoga? Isn’t that a load of hooey??” just to name a few. In response to these, yes it is nice, yes you can do it, no you don’t need to be flexible and you don’t need to touch your toes. And NO it is not a bunch of “hooey” since yoga in itself isn’t actually promising some magical cure all. I might be getting a little bit snarky, but the amount of people who have never tried yoga but tell me that it would be impossible for them to even try gets so old so fast.

I’m not sure what started this idea that you need a perfect body, perfect flexibility and vast knowledge of all things yoga to attend a class. But that is not the case, in fact it is so far from the truth I can’t even imagine how we came to believe these lies society gives us.

Yoga is not about doing each pose perfectly, matching some model pulled off google who has been twisted into the most complicated version of whatever pose is being modeled. No, yoga is so much more than those ideas we somehow have come to believe. Yoga is a way of relaxation, a form of semi intensive exercise and breathing practices. Breathing actually plays a huge part in yoga, although in the modern world of yogic exercise this part of yoga generally gets forgotten.

Yoga helps with my back pain, it can help focus and ground my mind. It can bring peace, and it can help to loosen up some very sore muscles. And it did all that before I learned to touch my toes. There are actually so many poses that I am still unable to hold. My handstand looks more like a wobbling pillar (or more like a crumbling, collapsing pillar), and I still have trouble balancing on my left side. Me and the ground are really good friends when I practice balance.

And I know that yoga isn’t for everyone, I don’t like every form of exercise out there. That’s fine, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t enjoy doing it. But to have never even tried and then say that you can’t do yoga isn’t an accurate statement. It’s just that so many people jump to the conclusion before they even try. I used to be the same way, I loved the idea of yoga and I had always wanted to try. But I was telling myself I just wasn’t flexible enough, and that I didn’t know enough about it or how to do it.

But this is why we take classes, to learn. We don’t tell ourselves we can’t have an eduction because we don’t know it all, we don’t say that we can’t learn something knew because we don’t fit some standard. So why do we do this with yoga? Once I got out of my head and tried it out, I loved it. So much so I became certified. And I am so glad that I did.

So give it a try, because yoga can fit all types. With props and modifications anything is accessible in yoga. I still use a strap for my practice, and I love doing so. It makes so many poses more accessible to me. Instead of saying that you can’t do it, ask how you can do it. Yoga is a practice that can be beneficial to all, if only we take the time to try it out.

So yes, yoga isn’t for me, at least the preconceived notion of perfection and flexibility isn’t for me. However the practice of yoga is for me. Because that’s just what it is, a practice. We don’t call it a yoga performance, because we aren’t perfect. Practice is what we do to get better at something, and that is what we are doing with yoga. And literally anyone can practice yoga, Buzzfeed actually made a pretty good point of this when they made a video on yoga. Actually they have made several but this is my favorite one. Another good one is plus sized women prove yoga is for everyone.

And while it may seem that yoga studios or classes only cater to a certain group, we can change this way of thinking if we learn to embrace something new and stop making assumptions that are purely from bias and not fact. Not every class or studio is going to be perfect. Not every class or studio will be welcoming. It might actually take a while to find something that specifically fits your needs. But it is so worth it. There have been a few classes that just did not click with me. I have a couple awkward yoga stories (for another post) that shamed me to no end. But all in all I had found that this practice was for me and that I need and wanted it in my life.

So before passing judgement on something you have never tried, try it. However, if you have tried it and hated it then judge all you want. At least you tried.

Namaste!

5 Tips for your first yoga class

We have all been there, walking into a studio with no idea what it’s going to be like. If you’re like me, you roped someone into going with you so you have the comfort of a familiar face around. The sign up process is nerve racking, as the front desk attendant passes you the information sheet waiting for you to fill it out. I hate having to fill anything out, filling forms out for sure means you will be getting an email; maybe even several million of them.

Then you need to walk into the studio room itself, find a spot. It feels as though everyone is staring at you as you try to pick the best, most unnoticeable spot that you possible can for a first timer. I had an advantage as I had been home practicing for a while, so at least I knew what the poses were when they were called out. And it was a beginner class with a set flow every time so I could come for several classes and start to get the hang of it.

There are some things that I wish I had known when I first came to a class. Some things that I learned in teacher training, or learned from observing classes and just things I realized on my own after going to a studio for a while.

1. Pick a spot in the middle row, in the very middle of the room:

No one ever told me this when I first went, probably because I said this wasn’t my first time doing yoga just my first time at a studio. But when I began to observe classes for teacher training, I noticed that teachers would encourage students to find a spot in the very middle if they said it was their very first time or if they asked for any tips. This is because if you have never done yoga before like ever, you are going to be very lost in your first class. It takes some time to get the poses down and really know what the teacher is trying to guide you to do. So if you’re in the very middle then you have a person to follow or use as a visual guide no matter where you turn. It’s not perfect and you shouldn’t solely rely on copying someone else in yoga, but it can be very helpful to a first timer if they have a visual as to what the pose looks like, especially in a studio that focuses more on one on one time with students vs staying up in the front.

2. Do not go into yoga thinking you need to be perfect:

This was something that I learned in training, as well as saw for myself. So many times when I told people I was training in yoga or asking them to do a class they would tell me that there is no way they can do that. You do not have too look like a yoga model, or do a pose perfectly to do a yoga class. Yoga looks different on everyone. Truly it does, I have never seen two downward facing dogs that look the exact same. There are modifications you can do, a different pose entirely and props that allow you to reach a pose better. Straps help someone complete binds they cant fully reach. In my case I use a strap no matter what because even if I can reach a bind it’s just more comfortable to have the extra space. So don’t think that because you don’t look like your neighbor that you are doing it wrong. Yoga is what feels good in your body and if it doesn’t feel good to have your heels to the floor in down dog don’t do it. For me I find a generous bend in my knees for my first down dog, along with some pedaling, really gets me started and loosened up for later on. I bend my knees in forward bends as well. Along with a little bend in my knee in poses like half moon or warrior III because it eases the pressure of trying to reach for something. My hamstrings can be pretty tight so I usually NEVER look like the model yogi for a pose.

3.You do not have to listen to the instructor:

Wait? What? Why even go to a class then? Well I find the community and set flow really nice, I always keep in mind that the instructor is a guide and I do not HAVE to follow along. Never have I ever, nor anyone else for that matter, been called out for doing something different. Again, you need to do yoga for YOUR body, so if the instructor calls you to Flamingo and you just can’t do that at this point, do a mod or a different pose that works the same muscles. You know you better than anyone, if it feels good do it. If it hurts don’t, and remember that being uncomfortable is only temporary but if it’s pain you’re feeling then adjust. A lot of the time your instructor will appreciate you doing a mod that is right in your body. I have lower back issues so I hate doing seated forward bend. I ignore the call to that and just butterfly my legs and bend that way instead. I still get a stretch and my lower back feels less strain that way. Don’t feel like you have to do it just because it was suggested in class. Just do what your body needs for the day.

4. Talk to someone:

I know this one is the worst. Take it from me, being social is not my first thought when taking a class. And a lot of the time there are already friend groups talking when you come in. But don’t be afraid to get to know your neighbor a little. I found that my best classes were the ones where I came out of it chatting with the other ladies (or gentlemen) and it certainly makes the locker room a little less awkward if you smile and say hello to someone. Sure you don’t have to be social in yoga, but it really adds to the class.

5. Keep meals light right before a class:

I was one to think that eating a little before a class would give me a boost. But I soon learned that you should eat light before, if you eat at all. Or if you do eat make sure it is an hour before class. A lot of the time I found I performed my best when I took a morning class and just ate after. You feel light and airy, and then you aren’t weighted down by the heavy breakfast you just had. Then I would go and pig out after I was done. Often times eating seems like a good idea because yoga can be a form of exercise and take a lot out of you, but just like you wouldn’t eat a big meal before running a race you wouldn’t do so with yoga. So light snacks if you must and save the pigging out for after you’re done. Plus you can get all your yogi friends to go out for food when you’re done and it makes it so much better!

These are just some beginner tips that I found would have been helpful to know when I first started my studio adventures. They aren’t going to make or break your experience but they definitely help, and I would have loved to know the middle spot tip when I first started. You would have died laughing if you saw me shoved in a corner my first time trying to see what everyone else was doing cause I was new to the flow.

I encourage everyone to give studio yoga a try, there is always a studio for everyone. Yoga is a great addition to life and can benefit everyone in some way.

Namaste