Tag Archives: Non-Judgement

Day 5: Hey Ego, Simma Down Now.

Happy Friday Yogis!

After taking it easy the last two days, I was ready for a vigorous flow this morning.  I decided to take Emily’s Level 2 class at Laughing Lotus in Manhattan.  I’ve practiced at Laughing Lotus a handful of times, but this was my first time taking Emily’s class.  It was everything I was looking for: great flow and challenging sequencing.  Of course, whenever I find myself in the midst of a challenging sequence, my ego likes to come out to play–not so yogic, I admit.

I find my ego is even louder when I haven’t been in a class setting with other yogis for a bit.  When I’m by myself in my apartment, it is a lot easier to focus on advancing my own practice and not worrying if my pose doesn’t look “perfect.”  However, get me into a yoga studio and all bets are off.  Side Angle Pose with my forearm on my elbow is no longer good enough–I have to stretch my hand to the floor.  Step back to plank?  No thanks, I’ll jump into chaturanga today.  And the thing is, nothing is wrong with changing your practice from day to day.  But what we need to pay attention to is WHY we are changing it.  For me, in a group setting, it is often to try to impress others, or at the very least, boost my “yogi cred.”

Yup.

Yup.

Today, the beginning of class was not much different for my ego and me.  I was definitely not practicing non-judgment as I fell out of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), blaming my empty stomach (and subsequently my poor time management that prevented me from eating this morning).  I felt slightly better when I improved on my second side.  But why?  Because everyone else around me will approve of me more?  After a while, the chatter in the mind becomes exhausting.

And then, before we knew it, she was leading us straight for headstand.  I didn’t recognize it at first; she had us lowering into dolphin with clasped hands, and I was anticipating a forearm plank or forearm stand.  But then she directed us to lower our heads down and walk our feet in and I realized what we were doing–and what I should not be doing.  As I mentioned earlier this week, I am on a headstand hiatus until my wonky neck starts to feel better.  But this was Laughing Lotus and, without looking up, I estimated that at least 3/4 of the class would be going upside down (I later learned I was correct).  It was really tempting to want to get up there to basically say to everyone, “Hey guys, I can do it to!” (accompanied by a side-to-side head shake and maybe even a “Pshhh!”).  But I decided (to the relief of my neck) to remain in the prep for the pose, and when that started to feel uncomfortable, I surrendered into child’s pose.  Of course, a tiny part of me was still looking for a way to alert the entire class that, in fact, I am able to do a headstand, I am just CHOOSING not to.  But alas, that did not happen and the beautiful thing is both my ego and my neck are still in tact.

So…not a perfectly executed “extinguishing” of my ego…but it was a small step.  And really, that’s all we can ask for from our yoga practice: small but meaningful steps towards our goal.  They will keep adding up to something great.

What small step have you made recently towards a goal?

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Day 4: Primary Series Express

Remember yesterday when I said I was going to get up for my roommate’s 7am vinyasa flow this morning?  Well, that didn’t happen.  I couldn’t quite get my act together so early in the morning, especially since I would have had to leave straight from the studio to go to the hospital where I teach yoga in the Pediatric department to renew my “volunteer” status (I use quotations marks because, as I talked about in this post, I am sponsored by the wonderful Starlight Children’s Foundation).

However, the wonderful thing about yoga is that it not only improves your physical flexibility on the mat, but also helps you to be flexible in your every day life.  The fact that I didn’t make it to the studio was not an invitation to beat myself up over it; after all, my practiced hadn’t been sacrificed, just changed.  Instead, I pressed snooze two extra times (my best friend will tell you that’s quite an improvement from college), got up, grabbed my laptop and rolled out my mat in my living room.  In just a few clicks, I’d found my favorite g0-to quick practice from Yoga Today, which I actually access through YouTube: Adi’s Primary Series Express.  Though I definitely prefer at least a full hour of practice, if not more, this is a really well-rounded class to do when you are pressed for time.

The Primary Series Express is a shortened version of the 90-minute Primary Series of Ashtanga yoga.  Ashtanga is a really powerful style of yoga that incorporates a lot of push ups and lift ups and jump throughs, of which the latter two I am still working on.  In case you aren’t sure what a lift up or a jump through look like, you can see examples here and here.  And no, it is not lost on me how ridiculously easy both of these yogis make it look.

Aside from a mat, yoga blocks are probably the best investment you can make for your practice–they are extremely versatile and can bring your yoga experience to a whole new level!

Oh sure, Michael Taylor, I will just bend my knees a few extra times and take a big deep breath to warm up and then I will lift myself up light as a feather.  No problem.  Except…that advice kind of helped me.  You see, recently when I practiced my jump through (using blocks under my hands of course!) I would end up majorly stubbing a toe or falling over completely.  This was strange only because I used to be able to do it (again, WITH blocks!) without much of a problem.  Something was getting in my head and I wasn’t sure what it was.  So today, after watching (…and scoffing) at these two videos, I gave it another go, taking some deep breaths before and voilà!  My legs were through.  It wasn’t pretty, but I got there, and now I can continue moving forward.  Which just shows how powerful taking a deep breath and focusing on the task at hand can be; it’s something I tell Charles all the time during school, but clearly need to work on myself.

What’s a pose that has been challenging to you?

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A Good Sign

Many of you know that part of my gig as a yoga teacher is teaching children in the pediatric department at a hospital in Brooklyn.  This is thanks to the generosity of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, where I used to work.   I was (and am) so excited to be back working with Starlight, which does amazing work for seriously ill children and their families–such as providing yoga in the hospitals!

I was fully prepared for the emotions involved with working with sick children; I don’t think you ever get over seeing small children in a hospital bed (or crib for that matter).  However, what I had not been prepared for was the fact that it is virtually impossible to be prepared…at least, not in the way that I was familiar.  No day at the hospital is the same, so every week I am presented with any of the following: group classes, bedside breathing/guided imagery, private sessions with family members, teenagers, toddlers, and everything in between.

Oh the anxiety!

I spent the first few weeks feeling like a fake.  Thoughts of nervousness and doubt were constantly ambushing my mind.  Sure, I’m a yoga teacher and I get along really well with kids, but does that make me a great children’s yoga teacher at the hospital?  Not necessarily.  But how do I become one?  I just spent 20 minutes doing yoga with a little girl’s Barbies, how is that going to help her?  That group class was chaotic, didn’t flow at all, and the one little boy didn’t try any of the poses or breaths.  Why are you even doing this?

Then one day I was leaving, once again being overly critical of my teaching, when I saw a sign with this quote posted on the wall just outside of Pediatrics:

“It’s not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”

~Mother Theresa

And it all clicked.  What I am doing is great, not because my teaching is perfect, but because my intentions are good.  In yoga, we always begin our practice by setting an intention; life off the mat is no different.  The mission of the Starlight Children’s Foundation is to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families–which is exactly my intention.  So if playing yoga Barbie brightened that little girl’s day, then that was successful.  Keeping this in mind has given me greater confidence in my abilities as a yoga teacher, which in turn has helped me to relax and just have FUN with it–because at the end of the day, seeing a smile or hearing that what we did felt good to a child is way better than teaching the “perfect class” (what is that, anyway?).

Who knows more about giving love than Mother Teresa?

Last week, I had the opportunity to have  a second session with a little boy who I’d met the week before.  Then, he had limited mobility, so he stayed in bed and we had the most wonderful session of guided imagery; the places he went and the things he saw were truly heart-warming.  This time, I was glad to see that he was up and walking about, with just a slight hunch in his shoulders.  I asked him what he would like to do and he said, “I think I should do some stretching since I can move around more now.”  We ended up squishing ourselves into the only space we could find.  A few months ago, I probably would have been stressed out because the space was not ideal and limited what we could do.  But this time I kept Mother Teresa’s words in mind and, together with his mom, we breathed deeply as we did basic seated stretches, twists, heart openers and some standing balancing poses (his favorite).  We giggled as he renamed Cobbler Pose “peanut butter and jelly” (because your feet touch like a sandwich), and encouraged mom when her hips weren’t as open as his to move into a pose.  When we were finished, he stood up and his mom pointed out how much taller he was standing.  He had a huge grin on his face and told me that he felt more relaxed, which in turn made me feel wonderful.

When you put all the love into the doing, it comes back to you many times over.  All it took was a sign on the wall for me to realize it.  What signs have you been given?

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