Attention all my pregnant friends, new and old. I’m teaching prenatal yoga on Wednesday nights at Taiga Yoga. The yoga part will be scaled to your experience level and current mobility. Every pose will have options. There will be a flowing sequence based on the ashtanga chandra namaskar (moon salutation). There will be time to get to know the other preggos and also time for meditation, pranayama and savasana. There will be music.
My intention is to create a joyful retreat on your yoga mat where you can practice the yoga that suits you and get to know some moms-to-be.
The second round of Yoga Teacher Training is happening this fall.
For the autumn, I’ve created a part-time evening and weekend program that will fit into your busy life. Here’s the deal:
You get an unlimited membership at Taiga Yoga (valid until December) to do your practice, and then three evenings per week, we meet as a group to discuss the history, philosophy and modern application of yoga. We’ll also practice teach, examine how to teach different populations and practice seva (community service) and kirtan (chanting).
(featured picture from the very first yoga class I ever taught. Thank you to supportive friends and family who stumbled along with me in that first practice)
Why am I teaching a yoga teacher training?
Simply – because I want to share the experience of yoga. Yoga can’t be captured in images of lithe women doing poses;
it can’t be captured in swirling platitudes set against backgrounds apropos of nothing;
Yoga can barely be described. But it can be experienced. It can be felt in a visceral way that defies description. I practiced for five years before I started teaching and then I decided to teach because I believed in the power of the practice.
And now, in my tenth year of teaching, I’ve amassed some experience and curated my personal practice into a 200-hour perspective.
Am I ready to share what I know about the practice? Yes.
Am I intimidated at the prospect of inviting students into my weird little yogic world? Yes.
Do I believe that I can make a difference by describing my version of yoga? Yes.
Truthfully, the amount of knowledge I have about yoga (or life) is laughably little. I don’t know what life feels like for anyone but myself. But I do know about the positive effect of yoga on my life.
So if I know next to nothing about yoga, what the heck are we going to talk about in teacher training?
I have a well-researched curriculum that I’m ready to share. But prior to writing the curriculum, the first step was to experience it. I’ve practiced in dozens of countries, I’ve practiced every lineage I could find, I’ve practiced through the thrill of falling in love and the subsequent crush of breakup. I’ve practiced as a teenager and as a 35-year-old.
I’ve practiced with and without anti-depressants, I’ve practiced with back pain and, most recently, I’ve practiced in the days and weeks following knee surgery.
And of course, there have been times when I didn’t practice at all. But through it all; the pain, the joy, the ecstasy and the ignorance, yoga has always saved me from suffering. And that’s why I believe in it.
Across the lineages and through the centuries, yoga is about surviving without suffering. Pain is mandatory; suffering is optional. Yoga takes you by the scruff of the neck and helps you survive maladies and disease. It forces you to look within and ask the tough questions about what you really need. Relationships, jobs, injury, medical intervention…it all comes and goes, but yoga is constant.
Yoga is the foundation for knowing yourself in spite of the tragedies and triumphs.
The point is that nothing makes the journey easy. Even with yoga, it’s still up to you to get up, get dressed and show up – to everything. But your yoga practice will ease the way. And that’s what we’ll examine. This teacher training isn’t about my practice, but it is about the practice. And it’s about what the practice means to you. There isn’t a correct way to do yoga, only that you do it.
Along the way, I’ve practiced at countless studios and with hundreds of teachers. Each teacher had an original interpretation of yoga. But all the teachers are unified in their unwavering belief in the practice. Whatever they say, wherever they were, whether I agree with their instruction or not, every single teacher presented an unshakeable opinion that the practice is worth it.
So if you believe in this elaborate practice, join me to examine your yoga and refine your ability to describe its value.
That’s what we’ll be doing in teacher training: figuring out how to articulate this exquisite practice. We’ll examine its history, lineage and philosophy and we’ll discuss descriptive techniques. You already believe in the power of the practice. Yoga teacher training will provide the tools to inspire that same belief in your future students. You know the potency of the practice. Now come and learn how to convey that power and pass it forward.
Ready to sign up for teacher training this summer?
Weight issues are epidemic in our culture. Obesity as a medical problem is widespread, and overweight patients are often prescribed “weight loss” as a solution to any medical problem. People with the particular physical characteristic of excessive body fat are given only one prescription for health. They feel constant pressure to conform, change and shrink. They’re barely given much more advice than “exercise more. eat less.” This “solution” does nothing to depict health as a psychological and physiological system. Yoga can help patients reframe their sense of self with compassion and acceptance.
Recently, a student dropped out of my beginner yoga class because she was doing too many “exercise classes” and didn’t have time for all of them. She said her doctor had prescribed exercise as a weight loss strategy, but she was tired and didn’t want to attend all the classes she’d signed up for. In spite of my best effort, I couldn’t convince her that yoga is more than exercise and is actually a complete system for health. She said she felt frustrated in exercise classes, conspicuously different from everyone else and “fat.” She had been told too many times to “just get more exercise” and she viewed classes as evil and unwelcoming and yet another domain for the “thin” people.
People with weight issues often apply a reductionist attitude to their health. “If I go to HIIT/ yoga/ crossfit, then I’ll be fitter.” “If I eat less, then I’ll lose weight.” These statements are true, but they don’t do an adequate job of framing health as a physiological and psychological system. It’s possible that exercise and calorie reduction will result in better health and weight loss, but there are much larger systems at play. Yoga offers a perspective beyond the “if/then” approach to improving health.
Obesity is such a prevalent problem in society and there is a lot of literature devoted to how the medical system treats obese individuals. Anecdotally, it appears that the system can be dismissive of obese patients and even go so far as to blame any ailment on their weight. For example, the New York Times refers to stories of overweight patients with non-weight related conditions like scoliosis or Crohn’s disease being prescribed weight loss in lieu of further examination. Patients who feel discredited by the medical system experience stress, shame and frustration. Yoga can be part of the prescription, but the power of the practice might surprise obese patients.
These patients know the basics of getting and staying healthy; they know that processed food is bad, eating fruit and vegetables is good, regular exercise is imperative and that it’s critical to keep stress at bay. But the medical system sometimes confuses habits and lifestyle and instructs patients to “better” their habits, “get” healthier and “change” something with the expectation of “improvement.” Paradoxically, this desire to improve creates stress. As an alternative to the desire to improve, yoga is a strategy to observe what’s happening with health and wellness. By doing a regular yoga practice, students are able to check in with their own physical and emotional self and understand their constitution from a point of view of acceptance rather than change.
By accepting themselves for who they are and not constantly being prescribed change and improvement, obese patients may be able to find wellness on the yoga mat – from a different perspective than they’re used to.
Obese students face many challenges in society, the worst of which is feeling the constant pressure to change their habits, overhaul their lifestyle and shrink. The pressure to change a physical characteristic is overwhelming but with weight loss being the only prescription, if they don’t succeed, obese patients are left feeling they’ve failed.
Yoga can give patients a new perspective on their health. By focusing on a meditation, they find acceptance and appreciation for who they are and remove themselves from the pass/fail outcome of results-oriented weight loss. Obese patients suffer from extreme attachment to a particular outcome. They are striving to lose weight and if they don’t succeed, they suffer because they are so attached to the outcome of their actions. The yogic perspective of non-attachment to outcome is a refreshing new perspective for a demographic who is being coerced by society to make changes to their appearance.
Yoga, meditation and a new perspective on “results” may help obese students love themselves in the face of society constantly telling them to change. From this love, a sense of wellbeing will start to bloom. Yoga teaches everyone to be compassionate to themselves. Obese students who struggle against society’s prescription of weight loss for health will find compassion towards themselves particularly useful. Weight loss is not the only prescription for health. Practicing yoga offers a consistent and steady approach to health that is not based on results. It’s a healthy lifestyle that is predicated on compassion.
Yoga as therapy has been contentious in recent years. In January 2016, the Yoga Alliance requested that any yoga school remove the terms “yoga therapy” and “yoga therapist” from their title. This suggestion was a precaution against misleading the public to think that yoga teachers are diagnosticians. The point was not that yoga isn’t therapeutic, but rather that yoga is not a strategy for diagnosing or curing ailments.
“If I go to yoga, I’ll be healthier.” While this statement is true, it’s not because yoga is a panacea or a prescription. Yoga is a therapy to help find physical and emotional well-being. The practice is a tool for noticing ailments, understanding strengths and having the resources to deal with challenges. By getting out of bed and on to your mat every morning, you are taking time to tune out from the world and check in with your physical and emotional self.
This regulation from the Yoga Alliance does not reduce the fact that yoga is therapeutic in nature. The point is that yoga does not represent the reductionist style of therapy that we tend to apply to ourselves. We apply reductionist theory to our habits: “If I meditate, then I’ll be calmer.” “If I don’t smoke, then I’ll be able to run faster.” “If I eat less, then I’ll be thinner.” While these statements are true, they fail to capture the notion that our health is comprised of a physiological and psychological system. Yoga affords another point of view beyond the reductionist “if/then” approach to improving health.
A healthy lifestyle is something that we all strive for. Joy and happiness, fewer aches and pains, serenity, and a robust constitution. We know the basics of getting and staying healthy; we know that smoking is bad, eating fruit and vegetables is good, regular exercise is imperative and that it’s critical to keep stress at bay. But we often get mired in wishing to “better” our habits, “get” healthier and “change” something with the expectation of “improvement.” Paradoxically, this desire to improve and to “cure” ailments often creates stress. In opposition to this desire to improve, yoga is a strategy to observe what’s happening with your health. By doing a regular yoga practice, you are able to check in with your own physical and emotional self and understand your constitution from a point of view of acceptance rather than change.
Yoga provides a holistic view of the human body as a system. The practice itself is simple. Just you and your mat. Certainly there are techniques and strategies for poses and for practicing meditation, but the fundamental beauty of yoga is its simplicity. You can’t cheat your way through it. By stepping on to your mat and checking out of whatever else you were doing with your day, you are observing the subtleties of your mind and body and teaching yourself strategies for managing emotional and physical discomfort.
The therapeutic potential of yoga comes from its consistency. The yoga sutras decree that the formula for success in yoga is to “practice regularly over a long period of time.” The therapeutic practice is not a prescriptive solution to health but rather a strategy for understanding yourself and finding the right path towards health and well-being.
The yoga posture begins when you want to leave it.
Practicing for the past week at an ashtanga-style studio where we contort ourselves into the primary series’ postures and then hold each one for five breaths (that’s four seconds in, four seconds out, times five) has really emphasized Iyengar’s point that la posture commence quand on a envie de s’arreter.
The good stuff starts when you feel like quitting. This is true of adventures. When you lose the high trail at 4:45pm in November and realize you don’t have a headlamp. THAT’s when the adventure begins.
Because adventure takes on many forms, and the best ones start out uncomfortable.
It’s being at the trailhead with a too-heavy pack. It’s climbing a mountain that no amount of training could have prepared you for. It’s deciding to go to another country for six months. It’s realizing you can’t get back to the other side of the mountain because the tunnel closed twenty minutes ago. It’s dragging your blistered feet to the summit. It’s enduring the storm in an inadequate sleeping bag. It’s sneaking into the museum and then getting locked in. It’s moving away from everything you know and attending university in a foreign language. It’s sharing a cab with the locals. It’s trusting the locals. It’s arguing with your travelling partner, even though he’s the only person with whom you can speak English. It’s sprinting through the station, but missing the train anyway. It’s realizing the next train isn’t for three days.
Adventure is a chance to push beyond the discomfort and see what awaits on the other side. It’s sticking with the plan, even when you feel like quitting. It’s enduring the pain and knowing it’s not in vain.
See you on the mat. See you on the mountain. See you on the adventure.