Friday, October 31, 2008


I can't believe I've made it to almost 7:30 on Halloween night and I haven't listened to the Dead Kennedys at all.

I decided to take a bit of a risk today. I had announced that this morning's class would be a costume party class. I thought it would be fun, somewhat light-hearted and markedly different than what many students have come to expect from our studio. I canceled the afternoon class to allow folks to attend the town's Halloween parade if they so desired, and to get their kids ready for trick or treating. (That was a concern for some of my parents, so I took it seriously.)

People responded rather well to the idea of a Halloween costume class. Some chuckled at the idea of practicing Bikram yoga in a costume, but we always suggested simple ideas and played up the fun aspect of the class. Folks definitely got to talking, though, so I felt good about the idea.

I found some cat ears and a matching tail, wore all black and essentially looked like a lost member of Josie and the Pussycats. Another student also wore cat attire, though she took the leopard-print leap. We had a very charming devil, a ballerina, a hula girl, and a princess. One of our stronger students wore brown and pinned fallen leaves to her clothes and into her hair. Totally awesome. Another wore a totally mismatched outfit, messed up her hair and called herself "Pippi Longstockings with Alzheimer's." (Yes, I am not the only politically incorrect yogi in my town.) The winning costume, in my humble opinion? Me. As in: a student who came as me. Drew the tattoos on and all. Fucking awesome.

A fair number of students came sans costume, but certainly appreciated the festive atmosphere. We also had not one but two newbies. Oops. What a day for your first class!

My co-worker (employee?!) wore a toga-like outfit and presented himself as the untrained mind. He created a Bikram-style throne at the front of the room, and had fruit and juice on ice surrounding the throne during class. He basically tried to create as many distractions for us as we practiced. At first I felt it was a little too goofy, but I eased up a bit. Fun, laughter and humor should also be part of our practice. Besides, it seemed my regulars were enjoying themselves.

Everyone left the room elated, joyous. My risk definitely came up a winner.

Monday, October 27, 2008

living among the crazy honkies

So maybe this blog won't focus so much on the day-to-day minutiae of teaching yoga classes. Some classes inspire an urge to write and share and record, good or bad. And some classes are just there. What doesn't change is the discomfort (for lack of a better word) I often feel as I transition into the yoga community at large, and perhaps the greater community known as my new hometown.

It's fuckin' easy to be a scumbag and work in the bicycle industry. You can wear the same hat all year, go days wearing the same pair of pants, have all sorts of ridiculous tattoos, avoid worrying about how much you drink (booze, coffee or both), swear at your leisure... and very few people will pay you any mind. Sure, some bike shops insist on a more "professional" demeanor, but more often than not they'll ask that of their sales staff and let the mechanics get away with a bit more. Hence my lack of resume in the sales arena.

It is also easier to foam at the mouth about politics in general in the bike world. Not always easy, but certainly easier than doing the same in the yoga world. It is quite possible to find kinship with other cyclists about issues of justice and environmental concerns. For some it's part of the equation: caring about the planet equals riding your bike.

Try to do some of this at a yoga studio, however, and you may be met with blank stares or outright hostility.

My better half made a valid point as we discussed recent events. He suggested that some folks consider their yoga class as an escape from the troubles in their world. So perhaps they'd prefer a space devoid of politicking. Fair enough, I say. What I don't think is fair is the assumption that we all agree about the world, and that we all agree that if everyone would just meditate and get all spiritual we'd be okay.

I may practice yoga and meditate, but I am a ridiculously pragmatic person. If something is broken, I want it fixed. I worry about the repair before I worry about why it's broken or who might have broken it. If the bed needs to be made, I make it. If dishes are dirty, I wash 'em. Get the picture? So if I know people are hungry, I ain't gonna wonder what forces made 'em hungry. I'm gonna feed 'em. If I see someone being mistreated, I'm not gonna try to "dialogue" with their superior. I'm gonna want that person to back the fuck off.

And if people aren't working and things just aren't going as we hope, I ain't gonna chalk it up to Kali Yuga and call it a day.* How the fuck does that help anyone? Yet I work with and teach and, in some cases, totally adore people who feel completely comfortable doing such a thing.

Many people have mentioned that the town where I now live is "a place of healing." It is for this reason that many people do not feel compelled to get involved on a civic level, because they are not here to connect with people and create a vibrant working community. They are here to heal themselves. With bodywork and acupuncture and crystals and mineral baths and some good things and some more quackery. People want to write love poems to "Mother Earth" as opposed to collecting trash from the side of the road. They want to create prayer circles instead of engaging civic leaders and politicians about injustice. To them, it totally makes sense that we're living in a time of vice and the world moves through cyclical patterns which means we just have to sit this vice time out. Without doing anything to alleviate anyone else's suffering. 'Cause y'know, man, that's like working against the gods. Man.

I can be okay with people stepping back for a spell to take care of themselves, especially if they're in ill health. We're no good to anyone else if we can't take care of ourselves and work from a place of good health. I only hope once these folks "heal" they'll feel compelled to bring that healing to others. But I don't see signs of that, at all.

What is it about yoga that attracts these selfish people? That's what they are to me: selfish. They want peace of mind and contentment for themselves, but they refuse to work to bring that to others. I know not every person practicing yoga acts from this selfish place. It's just that this is all I see right now. I find it reprehensible, and I don't know what to do to counteract it.

* Folks, this seriously came up in conversation. I am not making it up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

ballad of a radical yogi

Taught an odd class today. I've been off for the past few days, physically and otherwise. The time of the month certainly doesn't help, to put things euphemistically and cryptically. And it's Sunday. I am officially taking all the rest of my Sundays off. No work, just the paper and some coffee. Yup. That is my executive decision.

I cannot relate to many other yoga practitioners. At least not many of the folks in my town. I often wonder if I'm imposing my own little wall of protection. I just can't relate to people who aren't informed about the issues of the day, who live with little regard to the other inhabitants of their planet, and who don't at least try to act in accordance with their ethics. I could let shit like this slide a bit in the bike industry, because one couldn't assume that because someone likes to ride bikes that same someone is all for alternative transportation, fair wages for all and treading lightly on the planet. (All that seems safe to assume, but it ain't.)

In the yoga world, though... well, I just can't understand folks who practice yoga and don't think past the ends of their own noses.

I had an interesting experience the other night as I attempted to socialize with some yogis. I found myself surprised by their by-the-book behaviors (of course we're gonna listen to reggae, use phrases like "negative vibes" and refuse to acknowledge that some people might simply be reprehensible) and their lack of interest in the affairs of the day. This seems to be unique to my newly adopted hometown. Everywhere else I've lived I've managed to surround myself with thoughtful, passionnate, involved individuals. Their spiritual practice was part and parcel of their commitment to a just, sane world. Not so much here.

I excused myself from the social event early, citing a lonely dog at home as my reason. I walked home feeling dejected about my decision to operate a business in a place where I still feel so alienated.

Today's teaching didn't help any, either. I found myself confronted by a student about a sign I put up in front of the studio, endorsing a mayoral candidate. Said candidate happens to practice at the studio, but I'd known of him as a candidate long before I posted the sign. I wanted to know more about all the candidates before I stated a public opinion. Yes, I am biased towards my student... but of the many individuals running for this particular office, he is one of two who I'd be happy to see victorious in November. I don't think he is perfect. I also don't think Barack Obama is perfect or my first choice, but I'm dancin' with the one what brung me.

Anyway. This confrontation left a bitter taste in my mouth as I started the class. It made little sense to me to have such a conversation right before one begins a yoga practice. But it does make sense if people don't practice to clear their mind or stay present or contribute to an overall movement towards peace and justice. If you practice because it keeps you in shape or whatever, who cares about the consequences of your actions, right?

I don't want to change who I am in order to make my business successful. I have this hope that if I infuse my actions with my sense of ethics, like-minded folks might gravitate towards the studio. And perhaps it won't seem so odd for us to make public statements about current affairs.

The words look and feel so empty on the screen, though. I don't know if I have the energy to fight this fight on my own.

Friday, October 17, 2008

friday night with bill moyers

Yesterday: AM practice hampered just a tiny bit by the pesky shoulder whatever-the-fuck-it-is. (Hurray for life without health care! Let's keep guessing!) Honestly practice helps it feel somewhat better.

PM teaching. Six students, only one fellow. Two of my crazier ladies attended, as well as two younger women in the midst of helping a third student through her current boy drama. Said third student opted against practicing in favor of potentially running into her crush. Ha. One lady flew solo, free of all the intense female energy. My poor, poor token fellow. He'd been ill for a spell, so I'd missed him in class. And then he shows up to crazy lady fest.

I took advantage of my smaller, energetic class to play around a bit with setting intentions for practice. Normally I just ask students to set a simple intention, to keep them focused. In this class, I asked everyone to think of the one posture s/he hated or dreaded, or a part of the body that either hurt (due to injury) or created a shitty self-image. (No, I didn't say "shitty" in class.) We often focus entirely too much energy on the negatives, even as we practice yoga. So instead of accepting that dread or that self-loathing, I asked my students to meet that awful posture with love, or to treat that body part with love and respect. It is in this space that the possibility for healing those old, nagging injuries arises.

My token fellow left the class telling me I'd given him exactly what he needed. One of the younger ladies told me my words helped her conquer her fear of camel pose. I am glad that I can take risks and feel a modicum of success.

Today: AM practice with the still-nagging shoulder. Plus I was tired for whatever reason. The room was particularly cool, yet I managed to have a pretty kickass class. Felt better afterwards, but still wanted nothing more than to walk my dog, shower, and sleep for the rest of the day.

PM teaching. 16 students today. Whoa. One late arrival, and still one other person arrived well into pranayama. Whatever happened to punctuality? Now a good 90% have cell phones. Ain't they all on the atomic clock? WTF, people?!

I had two students, one lady and one fellow, with an amazing amount of uncontrolled energy. Both were fidgeting in dramatic ways, and I worried they would distract others. I tailored my class banter towards awareness of one's energy and how one contributes to the overall class. I also asked my students to be mindful of entering and exiting postures. I cast the words out into the lake, in hopes the proper students take the bait. Never works that way. I had a few compliments about the banter, from students who already practice with such grace. I suppose folks get what they can when they hear it.

One of my favorite regulars told me he could retire and live in my class. How's that for a compliment?

A strong class still couldn't stave off my antisocial fatigue, though. I left a dinner party early to spend more time with my dog and watch Bill Moyers. What's this gotta do with yoga? Everything.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

yoga teacher by day, election nerd by night

Blogging is lower on the list of priorities these days. In a way, I wish it weren't. I don't hold any delusions that countless yogis and dharma punx hang on to my every word, but I often find my head spinning with thoughts about my teaching, my own practice, and challenges with both. They should probably end up somewhere at some point, no? I've also put my written journaling on hold, which means the thoughts just keep on spinnin'. So much energy goes into simply maintaining the studio at its current level. I'd like it to grow, but perhaps I should look at my business as I do my practice and accept slow, steady change.

And my shoulder pain definitely doesn't make for easy times at the computer. I seriously think typing exacerbates the pain, as opposed to practice. Still, today I will take a day off after running errands and spending time talking to a web designer to help update our site. I've already taught twice today, so that should count towards time in the room, eh?

6am attendance: four students. I now have a newbie coming for these early morning practices, which eliminates the opportunity to practice with my students. A small class allows for many more corrections and adjustments, at least. My newbie certainly appreciated that. I think the rest of my small class did as well. The opportunity to share my passion for yoga with people who also approach their practices with passion and an eye for growth... I'm not quite sure how to put the feeling into words. I don't think it's possible. I find myself able to focus on the present moment, on the task at hand, without worrying about consequences and final outcomes. How rare to find oneself getting paid to essentially meditate.

9am attendance: ten students. Day two of one token fellow as well. The 6am class, even when I don't practice, definitely energizes me for the rest of the day. I managed to finish class in under 90 minutes. I like those days, if only to allow students more time in final savasana. Overall I think I'm getting better at integrating corrections and suggestions into my dialogue. I'm noticing certain phrases rolling off my tongue with more ease, and an ability to address individual corrections without losing time or focus. This class had strong, steady students, which I'm sure helped create that feeling of ease.

I had a new-to-me student in this class, who asked me my schedule before she left. That always feels good.

I also had two vegans in class today. How about that?!

I think I need a nap, and then: dinner and debate number three. Yes, today I will skip practice so I can see a debate in its entirety. As if I need any help making my decision in November.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

apparently i know "the secret"

Taught twice since last post. Don't remember much of yesterday's class, minus that it went smoothly. No hitches. Nothing spectacular.

This afternoon? Not so smooth. It all started out when a regular student commented that our clocks were off. I actually had noticed this myself, as sometimes I check my cell phone before class for some reason only to find it reads a few minutes faster than our studio clocks. Maybe two or three minutes; not enough for me to panic or stress. But this student noticed. Our cell phone times matched, and those matched the studio computer time. So I reset the clocks to match as well, which moved them up two minutes faster.

I told this student, "Now watch. I bet people show up late today."

Careful what you wish for.

Funny thing is: I still started a minute late, since I had students in the restrooms. But as soon as I shut the door and made it to the podium, I saw a car pull into the back driveway, followed by another car and then a student on bike.

I know I should let this go. It's just circumstance, and perhaps now folks will pay attention to the time. But of course I'm dwelling. It definitely resulted in a messed-up class for me. I was hardly present, and I kept flubbing lines.

That's it. I'm tired of the computer now.