So, the monthly book club took a little two month break…but it’s back! The selection this month comes courtesy of one of my students in California gifting me this book – Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass. I read the first chapter last night and it feels like just the right book to dive into as summer begins to wind down, school starts again, and transitions are in the air.
Exactly seven years ago, the hospital where I worked as a dance/movement therapist closed its doors. I found myself unemployed and very, very freaked out. I had a regular yoga practice at that point. I credit my practice for getting me through the intense work I did at that hospital and the upheaval of mass layoffs and then, months later, the announcement of closure due to bankruptcy. Two weeks after that announcement, which I heard on the 10 o’clock news, I found myself saying good-bye to the final patient as he was transferred. It would be a few more years before I officially said good-bye to what I thought would be my career for, well, the rest of my life.
After the hospital closed I went back to working as a dance/movement therapist at the hospital where I had been hired right out of graduate school and done my internships. Early in the film, Mr. Gaga, Ohad Naharin’s father, Eliav, says, “Life is full of tatters. Try to reattach them, it doesn’t work out.” I tried to reattach the tatters of my career as a dance/movement therapist, but it just didn’t work out. I was miserable.
In the summer of 2011, the yoga studio that had become my yoga home when I began graduate school offered its inaugural teacher training program. Teaching yoga was never on the list of careers I wanted to have. I didn’t even like yoga until the age of 25. Sometimes I still don’t like yoga that much. (I know, I’m not supposed to openly admit that.) And yet, I decided to do the teacher training. I started to think that I might actually want to teach yoga, what that would look like I had no clue. Six years later, teaching yoga is my full-time job. It’s challenging, it’s not nearly as glamorous or zen as most people believe it to be, and yet, I can’t envision myself doing anything else. Teaching yoga is one of the most fulfilling things I have done with my life thus far. And, had a small private hospital in Harlem not closed its doors at the start of what I thought was the beginning of my career, I do not think I would have found the path I am on. Plot twist indeed.
I know, I know, it is June 5th already – I dropped the ball posting this at the very start of the month. This month I chose one of my favorite books to return to, whether for my own practice, or to use with students. Given all that is going on in the world lately, this book hardly gets put back on the bookshelf I return to it so often these days. Yoga for Emotional Balance by Bo Forbes is a great resource. Whether we or someone we love or work with is clinically depressed or has an anxiety disorder, life is throwing curveballs we can’t dodge, or the news has us struggling to find calm and balance, this book offers valuable insights backed by science, as well as pranayama (breathing exercises) and restorative yoga poses to help bring us back into balance. I hope you area able to find some valuable and useful nuggets to use within your own practice in this book.
Okay, so I realize I failed to offer updates on my 30 day yoga challenge. Here’s the rundown, I did not take one yoga class everyday for 30 days in a row. I did take 30 yoga classes in 30 days, some days I took two classes. I quickly came to realize that as a full-time yoga teacher, having one day a week that does not include yoga is important for me. The first week was really rough. I found myself exhausted and, well, hating yoga. Making time to take a yoga class everyday left me struggling to find time to prep for the classes and clients I teach, and have enough down time each day. By the second week I was starting to feel physically stronger, a lot of my regular aches and pains had disappeared, and I began to fall into the routine of taking classes. I had truly settled into my new schedule by the third and fourth weeks, and it felt manageable.
When I started the 30 day challenge I was struggling to get myself to class regularly – I was falling back onto excuses instead of finding the discipline needed to maintain my own practice amidst a busy teaching schedule. Post 30 day challenge I have settled into a routine of taking a yoga class five days a week. I have also been reminded of how important it is to have that time on my mat to quiet and calm my mind and take care of my body. It was a challenging month, but it got me back into a healthier routine. Quite, honestly, I forgot to write about my experience earlier because I simply continued going to classes as May rolled around.
I’m a few days late with this because May just crept up on me. So, here it is, the book for May – Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater. I first read this book about a year and a half ago. It is filled with nuggets of wisdom along with practice suggestions to apply to everyday situations and daily mantras. I’m looking forward to returning to this book and seeing how I can apply the practices and mantras to my daily life and teaching.
Somehow another month just flew by, which means, it is time to announce the book for April. This month I am looking forward to reading Anne Lamott’s new book, Hallelujah Anyway (released April 4th). My mom first introduced my to Anne Lamott when she gave me a copy of, Traveling Mercies just before I began my sophomore year of undergrad at Bard. Since then, I have been a bit of a fan, to say the least, reading all of Lamott’s published work. I do hope you will join me in reading, Hallelujah Anyway this month.
I’m sure many of you have heard about 30 day yoga challenges – the ones where students take 30 yoga classes in 30 days. I’m sure some of you reading this have completed 30 day yoga challenges. (Go, you!) Well, guess what, yours truly is embarking on one this April. Getting onto my yoga mat daily is nothing new, but I have never taken a yoga class every day for 30 days in a row. So why do this? Well, to be honest, I haven’t been getting to classes regularly, and when that starts to happen my home practice slides and my teaching becomes lackluster. I’ve been working a lot lately and dealing with some injuries. In other words, I’ve been great about making excuses and proclaiming I don’t have time, i.e., I have been choosing not to make time for my yoga practice. The 30 day challenge eliminates the ability to make excuses. Show up to class every day, period.
I’ll share some of the key factors I considered when deciding to take this challenge in case you are interested in joining me this April, or challenging yourself at some point in the future. Some contracts and long-term subbing jobs I had will be ending in April, freeing up time in my schedule. I chose a studio where I already take classes regularly and feel comfortable. I’ll let you in on a secret, I hate trying out new studios, it makes me super anxious and I get intimidated easily (yes, even when it comes to yoga). This studio has four locations throughout the city I live in, all of which are conveniently located near my home or near the homes of the private clients I teach. It is important that I do not add lengthy commute times to my schedule each day. I already spend a lot of time commuting to the classes and students I teach each day. All of the locations have classes throughout the day. Waking up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in an early class before I start my day or taking a late night class at the end of my day are not enticing options for me. It is key for me to have classes offered at times that easily fit into my schedule. This studio is already hosting a 30 day challenge for the month of April. Participants were asked to sign up in advance, and those that complete the 30 days are eligible to win some pretty great prizes in a raffle at the end of the month. It is helpful for me to commit to something in writing, not just in my own mind. I also like the idea of knowing that other students in classes are partaking in this challenge as well, even if I do not directly know anyone else who signed up. For me studio accessibility, class times, commitment, and community are key pieces in ensuring I can actually complete this challenge, while maintaining my sanity.
I’ll check in with you each week to let you know how things are going. If you have any words of wisdom from 30 day yoga challenges you have completed, please share.
It’s March already. Am I the only one who feels like this year is flying by at lightning speed? With a new month comes a new book. A yoga teacher I’ve been taking class with over the last month shared passages from this book as part of her dharma talks and I felt compelled to pick up a copy. I invite you to join me in reading, Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi.
It’s February. I am grateful for a new month, and a fresh start. Things have been feeling unstable and uncertain in the world lately. The yoga classes and sessions I teach have been full of people looking to cultivate a little more calm, peace, and grounding in their lives. I find myself returning to my mat each day so I can practice staying fully present and compassionate even in situations that are upsetting and unsettling. My reading time has mostly consisted of fiction, in an attempt to escape. I do, however, find myself flipping through one of my trusty favorites a lot lately, so I am choosing it as the book for February. I invite you to join me in reading, or re-reading, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön. (As you can see, my copy is well loved – there are even little teeth marks in the upper righthand corner from my cat.)