Sunday, May 16, 2010

working for the weekend

Last time I sat on my couch typey-typing a new blog entry, the Mr. and I had the television tuned to Thursday night awesome. Hmm. How time flies when you're busy. Teaching solo for three days in a row left me with little time or desire to write. Friday and Saturday both, I had scheduled my days in such a way, I left myself with no free time between classes. In a way, that's kind of "whatever" since once upon a time I used to pull something like a 9-to-5. It's also kind of good, because movement and busy-ness leaves little time for feeling sorry for myself or doing stupid shit. But it also means no time to write, or think, really.

Lots of stuff came up during the course of my teaching marathon. Except I don't feel much like recapping it now. I just want to rest up for the week ahead.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

this ain't no picnic

Morning: teaching. I slept terribly last night, with no desire to teach or interact with humans before noon. My eyes struggled to open, but when they did I could see plenty of sun and blue sky. I did what I could to fight my way out of bed, assuming I'd probably have a small class on such a gorgeous morning.

Instead I found five students on the patio by 8:25. Apparently the sun roused everyone in town but me. The energy in the room ran so high from minute one. I worried that I'd be unable to keep up or inspire. On top of my fatigue, I discovered that the clock in the studio somehow broke.

One of my regulars brought me a gallon of home-brewed kombucha. I needed that.

20 students total in the morning class. My tired ass taught without a clock, and still managed to finish with three minutes to spare. By the time I got students into Ardha Matyendrasana I was ready to kick the day right in the babymaker. Yeah, sometimes my job rules. One student told me she felt the flow of the class was better than ever. Imagine that.

Afternoon: practice. I arrive at the studio to learn that my scheduled instructor tried to reach me so I could cover her class. *sigh* I accepted the possibility of missing a practice. We secretly wished for no one to arrive. Sounds terrible, but if no one shows up I could practice on my own. Or if regulars arrive I can lead them in a silent class, and let my instructor take care of her personal business.

Always take care when making wishes.

One of my favorite regulars arrives, and we discuss our collective desire for a silent class. Then a new student walks in the door. Honestly it's good to have more business, so I accept this new turn of events and prepare for class. Apparently said newbie will have another friend joining her. Because of the triumphant arrival of spring, we have very few folks in class. It's me, my favorite regular, another woman with a great practice, and three new students.

This was one of my hardest practices. Once upon a time I preferred smaller classes so we'd have plenty of personal space. Now a small class proves challenging. When you're leading it, you're essentially carrying everyone along in their practice. It works well when it's a small group of regulars. Sometimes you can turn it into a mini-clinic, or take chances to make deeper corrections. A small class with a lot of new students is another matter altogether. New students rely on regulars to show them the way, literally and figuratively. I knew I had three pairs of eyes watching me through my practice. I had to represent. No rest for the wicked.

I realized that I am still an asshole after all this practice. I couldn't find enough compassion for my instructor and her issues. I had to remember my first Bikram class and how much I struggled and fought so I wouldn't get frustrated at my newbies. This trying to make yourself better with practice shit is hard. Maybe I have to let go of trying to be better, or at least better for other people. The goal is just as much an attachment as anything else.

I imagine my full day will lead to a restful night. I need all the sleep I can get, considering I have a weekend full of teaching doubles on my horizon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

roll the die!

My friend in yoga and blogging (amongst other things) Suzie D. coined the term "yoga roulette" to describe taking one's chances with location in the studio. A huge part of practice includes letting go of attachment and staying present, which means sometimes you don't get to lay your mat down in that sweet spot right next to the instructor or the window that lets in a crack of fresh air. I've been meaning to spring a game of yoga roulette on my morning class, because I have at least three students who should literally pay me rent for their specific locations. I do get it. You have a spot you like, and there's already enough to challenge you. Why not control what you can control? But we miss the point when we're that attached. And if I am being completely honest (which is pretty much my M.O.) it bores me to see people in the same spots every day.

I didn't even have to roll the die or spin the wheel this morning. I don't know what happened, but two of my regulars got displaced. I felt like I had a new job. Seriously. It was an entirely different experience for me as a teacher. I realized how much I've let my students' attachment turn into a rut for me. I needed this kick in the pants for sure.

I need a lot more than a kick in the pants to get me out of my life rut, but I'll take what I can get. It dawned on me this evening that I neglected to celebrate my five-year anniversary here in Ashland. Hmm. That's all I got on that subject.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

always trust your first instinct

I don't like to abuse the privilege of studio ownership as a rule, but today I arrived at the studio before my instructor after running some studio-related errands. I feared going home first, because I could totally see myself wussing out and skipping practice. So I went, and let myself in because I could. This means first pick of location in the room. I keep thinking i want to move back into the back of the room, but when I practice behind people I get so terribly distracted. I hate to say it but it's true. I chose the front corner spot, furthest from the door. I hoped this would reduce my chances of folks setting up right on top of me in an effort to stay near the door.

Then one of my favorite regulars comes in to practice. Since I've become the morning go-to instructor, I don't see her as often as I'd like. She hints that she'd really like it if I practiced next to her. I give in and move my mat.

Of course that means that one of my most distracting students would set up right behind me once I moved.

I feel like I will never live a life without challenge. That reads like a total "DUH" statement, but it merits mention. I don't know if I really want true smooth sailing, but one day I'd love it if all the petty shit would just effortlessly roll off my back. Truth is: I am the person responsible for making that happen. If I am completely honest, I have to admit that I've gotten much, much better. I know my practice has kept me from spiraling deep into self-destruction, to put it mildly. This is why I keep coming back to the mat. I know this shit works. I fear that if I stop, I'll just fall back into old bad habits.

So even on days when I want to throttle people around me, I keep coming. Sometimes I use them as inspiration, which is completely stupid and a total contradiction to the intent of the practice. But I do it anyway, because it keeps me in the room and I can keep going. Besides, I know the urge to throttle is temporary. For today, at least.

Monday, May 10, 2010

there went the weekend

On the subject of daily writing: I tried. Better luck next time, as the adage goes.

Folks of a professional bent often suggest that one finds one's passion and follow it in terms of creating a career. You'll be devoting so much of your time and energy to this career, you might as well love what you're doing. Such is the logic, yes? I have to admit I challenged that notion not long after starting to work in exchange for a wage. Yes, I love riding my bike, but won't I start hating it if I do it for a living? Same goes for making photos or working on bicycles or building bicycles. I resisted turning my passions into a paycheck because I wanted to enjoy my life and my hobbies (if you can call them that). Despite my resistance, somehow I managed to avoid falling into the "I hate my job" trap.

Right now I'm on a "teaching six mornings a week" tear. And I am the farthest thing from a morning person. I wake up so damned grumpy every morning, even when the sun streams into my room and I wake next to my fellow sleeping like an angel and our elderly dog snoring at our feet on the bed. I want to ease into my day at my own pace. Such a delightful privilege, no? It's one I had hoped to enjoy once I owned my own business.

Fat chance. I work more now than I ever did. I did expect to, in a way, though I wasn't starting from scratch with a brand new business. I knew it would take time to become solvent and experience a modicum of success. I didn't know that, even with a staff, I would pretty much be working alone. (That part's probably best left for another day, or maybe never.)

My own stresses disappear once my feet hit the podium when I teach. On the days I have to skip my own practice because the rest of my life creeps in, I can still get some peace of mind and quiet when I teach. I am lucky this way. I know this. My job doesn't feel like a job when I'm actually doing it.

That doesn't change the fact that I don't have a weekend. I have one day off from teaching a week. It does not coincide with either of my fellow's days off. Two years of this has made me tired. I don't know any other way to describe it. Again, I'm lucky that the fatigue melts away once I start working. The same thing happens when I practice... if I practice. Sometimes I just want to stay home and read in my yard. Or walk my dog. Or ride bikes through the orchards with my fellow. Because all of that means I AM NOT AT WORK.

And we haven't even hit summer yet, when my only reliable instructor disappears for two months.

If anyone could epitomize practicing yoga off the mat more than me, I'd like to meet that person. I sure could use some advice for making this work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

everybody's somebody's momma

I can say only one thing about today:

My students gave me a Mother's Day card. Not just any card. An OVERSIZED card. I need to get a photo. It is hilarious. I do love the sentiment; the student who brought the card told me I deserve it because I am the yoga mom. Yeah, hilarious... especially since I can easily be the daughter of three-quarters of my students. I suppose inheriting my own mother's nurturing instinct finally has an outlet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

how do you achieve enlightenment? practice practice practice

Yesterday I wrote of cycles, and attempting to learn from past experiences and situations. Of course today would present to me the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.

Fairly standard class this morning. 16 students, if I recall correctly. One newbie, two late arrivals and a second newb who pulled on the locked studio door at 9:01 (for my 9am class) and acted surprised that I wasn't interested in letting her in. I especially liked the fact that she told me she'd never been to our studio before and she also had to drop her daughter off at school. If I could have scratched my head at that comment, i would have, but instead I apologized and told her I had a class to teach.

Right now I keep mulling over the difference between being a disciplinarian and a control freak. Some would call me the latter, and some have in the past. I think I'm learning how to let go of what I cannot control, and this pleases me. This does not mean, however, that I just take shit as it comes. A 9am class should start at 9am, dig? A ninety-minute class should finish in ninety minutes, if you smell what I'm cookin'. Insisting on punctuality and continuity feels more like discipline to me, not control. So I can insist that you're ready to practice at 9am, but I won't stress out if I can't control your tardiness.

My afternoon practice meant more time to mull over this distinction. First I noticed several students setting up their mats rather haphazardly, basically insisting on being as close to doors and windows as possible despite anyone who might have already staked claim in that real estate. This meant I had a student literally on top of me (and I was in the second row!) as well as another student who parked himself right in front of me, leaving me no room to see myself in the mirror. No worries. I just took my breaths and got on with my practice.

The fellow in front of me also happens to be one of my challenges. He chooses to do postures his own way, despite the fact that the Bikram series is rather specific. When I have him in my class I do what I can to keep him working with us, but it's often for naught. It seems my staff must agree, because no one else calls him on it. It definitely messed with my own practice, because how is it that someone who isn't representing the practice properly gets to stand in front of, and block, a teacher? But really... whatever. I can't control it. All I can control is what I do and how I present myself.

As much as I hope to step out of my mind when I practice, dealing with this challenging student inspired me. I came up with a few ways to encourage students to try the practice as we deliver it. Let's see if it works.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the more things change

In an attempt to satisfy my curiosity. I re-read my old entries. Long before I settled into a regular yoga practice, I had to acknowledge how my life moves in cycles. Everyone's lives do, in some way, but it started to feel crazy how I'd find myself in similar situations over and over again. I began to wonder if things happened for a reason, perhaps so I could finally learn something from all the messy predicaments in which I'd find myself. It took me a while, but I started learning. I began to accept the places where I could change things and the places where I couldn't. I can't always control what happens, but I can control my reactions and actions.

Now, to clarify: I'm not the type who buys into all the manifestation/The Secret-type BS. I can accept that karma exists, and sometimes we have to lie in the beds we've made. I am, however, the type of person who believes one should learn from one's successes and mistakes.

So here I am reading through old entries of my progress and experiences as I learn how to teach yoga, and I notice that I'm still experiencing a lot of the same things when I teach now as I did when I started teaching and started writing about it. What's different, though, is me.

Once upon a time I honestly felt it was my job to get people to change through their yoga practice. I also felt that my students had to leave my class happy, or at least in a better mood than when they started. None of this is true, or needs to be true for me to be a competent teacher. Because really, I'm not a teacher. I'm more of a facilitator.

When we're born we're given all the physical and mental tools we need to live. As we grow, shit happens to us and around us that messes up our access to these tools. (For some of us it was a LOT of shit happening. For others, not as much.) If we can give ourselves the space to really look at where we are in the present moment, we might realize that we already have everything we need. We just let ourselves get cluttered and distracted. If it were easy to clear those distractions, I'd imagine everyone would be a bit more content and we'd all be living happier, healthier, safer lives.

This is where I make my entrance.

You walk into my studio and you'll have an opportunity to stare yourself in the face, both literally and figuratively, for ninety minutes at a time. It might sound like I'm forcing you to do some intense stuff with your body, but really all I'm asking is that you turn your brain off, breathe, and take a look at what you've got. Some days that means seeing something awesome you didn't know you had. Other days it means acknowledging that you're in the shit and you might want to reconsider where you are. Either way, all I have to do is ask you to be honest and really look at yourself. And sometimes this means you leave a class with me and you are not happy.

If you're lucky, though, your body feels good enough to make you consider ignoring your cranky and unhappy brain, and you come back.

No matter what the end result of one practice, I'll be back if you want to try again. Whether you like me or not.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

inhale on the start, exhale as you hit

I have to blame roller derby for my absence from writing. It is only fair. I fell in love with something else, and it took me away from self-reflection. This has both positive and negative consequences, of course. My intention here was to blog about my yoga practice and the challenge of maintaining my own truth in the face of assumptions about those who practice yoga. So while a part of me feels a digression about derby means straying from the original path, a greater part of me wants to acknowledge that yoga is a lot more than the semi-pretzel maneuvers we do on a little rubber mat.

Reality is: I'm a big-city girl trapped in a small town that tries to act big. As much as I challenge myself to find peace of mind and contentment by sitting in meditation, I need an outlet for my excess energy and my outsized personality. I grew up watching the old school, banked track derby with my dad, and I spent far too much time attempting fancy tricks on a wooden board with wheels, so the fascination makes sense. Learning that there was a derby team in action nearby supplied me with one more way to burn off that excess energy and meet some more like-minded people.

I feel fortunate that I started this new journey with a few years of spiritual practice under my belt. It is amazing how often we can access the peace of mind that yoga brings even when we're far away from our studio or our mat. Finding myself in this very different, non-metropolitan area forces me to interact with folks who dwell on the polar opposite end of the political and social spectrum. Having patience at the ready makes it much easier to cope when things don't quite go my way.

And the breath! Oh, the breath. How having a reliable breathing practice helps when you're trying to build endurance that will last when you hit a bitch as hard as possible while skating at top speeds. (Classy, huh?) I find myself literally meditating on when to inhale and when to exhale to increase the force of my hip checks. I also appreciate finishing a particularly demanding endurance drill and still having plenty of energy to continue practice, while the rest of my team needs breaks. It stands as a testament to how powerful and not airy-fairy a truly consistent yoga practice can be.

I reckon that from this point forward more roller derby stuff creeps into my daily* introspections. Of course I still have all sorts of stuff rising to the surface about teaching and living my yoga, as well as my own practice. But this is a part of my life and practice now. So, here it is.

* Yes, I would like to say I'll be back to daily blogging. Perhaps as my friends struggle in daily yoga challenges, I will struggle with a regular writing practice. If they can do it...

Monday, May 3, 2010

consider the date upped

No joke. I've been toying with the idea of resurrecting this blog for a while now. With my beloved faraway friend Suzie D.* blogging about her 30-day challenge, this is as good a time as any.

Except right this second frustration and a certain amount of sadness weigh heavily. Not exactly the best place to start again. Especially since I missed my practice today because of some incorrect information, only to spend most of my entire day dealing with a lot of bullshit and needing the serenity that comes with practice.

Lesson for today: do shit for yourself first. Sounds selfish, but it's starting to feel much more correct.

Better update next time.

*Technically Suzie D. is Suzie R. Or should I say legally she is. She'll always be Suzie D. to me.