Returning to the Mat

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This morning I stepped onto my yoga mat and took a class for the first time in almost a full month. It felt like coming home. I was stiffer than I thought I would be, but my muscles slowly released and by the end of classes it felt oh so good to stretch. I definitely lost strength, which my ego didn’t like, but I was able to discover new ways of engaging and moving, as opposed to just falling back into old muscle memory. It also felt good to be returning to my practice on my own terms. I have been visiting family over the last two weeks for the holidays. Several times  I have thought, “I should go take a class or at least do a decent home practice.” My body wanted stillness, though. I was drained after a hectic work schedule over the last few months and healing from an injury that prevented me from engaging in my physical practice the two weeks prior to the holidays. I allowed myself to let go of the should and listened to the wants and the needs. Sometimes we need rest…and that’s okay.

I share this, because as we enter the new year so many people will step onto a yoga mat for the first time or return to their mats after a long hiatus. Starting something new can be daunting and our egos can become very fragile when we find we are not instantly good at what we are doing. If you are returning to your practice after a break, do your best to approach everything with an open mind – you have the gift of a fresh start. You may not be as flexible or strong as you once were, but if you tap into your breath and allow yourself to experience your practice exactly as it is (not as it was or how you think it should be), new things will be revealed. Be patient. Be kind. Be consistent.

I wish you all well as we embark on a new year. And I encourage you to make taking care of yourself a priority this year.

 

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Vino & Vinyasa Retreat

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I am delighted to announce the next retreat I am leading!

I invite you to join me on the Central Coast of California for a long weekend of yoga, wine, food, and great company. Many of you know me as a yoga teacher, but I also completed a 21-week sommelier certification course with the Sommelier Society of America and am an avid vegan baker and cook. I couldn’t be more excited to combine and share three things I am passionate about.

When: March 23-26, 2017

Where: Paso Robles, CA

Price: $895 (Can be made in 2 installments)

 

Includes:

  • 3 nights at the beautiful Dancing Deer Farm
  • All Meals
  • Daily Yoga
  • Transportation for an Afternoon of Private Wine Tasting
  • Private Vineyard and Winery Tour
  • Cooking Class
  • Wine Pairing Class

 

To register, and for more information, please visit: http://djunapassman.com/retreats.php

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Listening

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Several months ago I started to become aware of my tendency to start talking before the person I am listening to has fully completed his or her train of thought. It took me a while to honestly admit to myself that I cut people off and talk over them – not all the time, but enough to warrant some reflection. And wrapped up in this was the reality that every time I started talking before the person speaking was finished I was failing to fully hear the other person. As someone who has always prided herself on being a good listener, I was embarrassed by this realization. Noticing and admitting our less than stellar habits is never fun.

Over the last month I have been using FaceTime to teach students in New York while I am in California. With FaceTime only one person can speak at a time or both voices get canceled out and there is just silence, which has magnified my less than favorable habit. With one student in particular, I was constantly catching myself beginning to talk while she was still speaking. I wound up missing a lot of what she was attempting to share. And so, because I had to, I forced myself to practice pausing and waiting for her to finish speaking before offering responses. I realized that more often than not, a response wasn’t needed. I didn’t need to add my two cents or comment on what she had said. I simply needed to listen. And she simply needed to be heard.

How often do we start listening to someone then begin formulating what our response will be before the person has fully finished speaking? How often do we actually interrupt people so that we can be heard before truly hearing what others have to say first? I invite you to catch yourself in these moments (surely I am not alone in the struggle to fully listen to others all the time). Listening without planning out what to say in response or beginning to offer that response before the other person has finished speaking has proven to be quite a challenge for me. During every FaceTime session with students I am able to practice genuinely listening – in this case technology has truly been a blessing.

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Audible Yoga Classes

I am almost a month into my three month long sabbatical. While I miss my students in NYC dearly, this time away was necessary. I’ve had the opportunity to teach and take classes where I am staying in California, and I have been working on recording audio classes. I invite you to check out some of these classes, especially useful if you are traveling this summer, or just looking to practice anytime, anyplace. There will be more classes available in the next few days. And, if you have any class requests, please leave a comment.

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Body Image

 

Recently, I have become acutely aware of the fact that I have gained weight over the last several months. (You know it’s bad when even your stretchy yoga clothes start feeling a little tight.) A lot of things have contributed to this weight gain, among them, age and not being as active as I used to be. Because I am in no way fat, and am healthy and strong at my present weight I have been having a huge internal battle with myself.

Part of me is completely freaked out by the weight gain. I do not like what I see when I look in the mirror. The spreading out, the jiggling…how did I let that happen?!? A little voice in my head is screaming: Why haven’t you changed your diet? Why haven’t you been going to the gym and working out every day? This is unacceptable!

The rational part of me knows that I haven’t gained that much weight. I’m only 5’4 and have a small frame so even 5 lbs can make a difference. I am no longer interested in restricting what I eat or cutting things out of my diet. I juice, make smoothies, eat salads, and cook most things from scratch at home. I am also going to have the baguette with olive oil or ice cream when I feel like it. I am not interested in going to the gym for hours every day or taking really intense fitness classes. My body has endured a lot of wear and tear from being a dancer, most of my joints hurt all the time. I’m choosing the gentle yoga or Gyrotonic class over anything with the word bootcamp in it.

And yet, in this image-based society and working in a profession where I have lots of students looking at my body in form-fitting clothing every day, it is hard not to feel self-conscious, and even a little embarrassed by my body as it is right now. I find beauty and strength in each and every one of my students, no matter what size or shape their physical bodies are. I work privately with women who are so ashamed of their bodies and worried about what other people might think that they will not go to classes or the gym – it breaks my heart.

I feel stronger than I ever have. I have muscles and strength where I never thought I would. Sure, I have limitations based on chronic injuries, but I am content with what I can do. Am I going to switch up my weekly exercise routine to tone up and slim down a little? Yes. Am I going to eat a few more salads and a few less burritos? Possibly. Am I going to freak out over the fact that I now wear a size small install of an extra-small? No. After decades of not appreciating my body and loving it as it was, I am going to choose to accept my body as it is…as hard as that may be at times. After all, look what I can do!

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Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

When I first started teaching yoga I never allowed myself to even dream of leading a yoga retreat. Sure, I saw flyers and postcards at studios, and enjoyed the pictures and stories my students and teachers shared of retreats in beautiful faraway places. Lots of shifting, peeling away of layers, and growing has happened for me over the last six months. And, I started to entertain the thought of leading a retreat somewhere surrounded by nature with nearby beaches.

I am excited to announce that I will be hosting my first yoga retreat! Join me August 20-26th at the beautiful Samasati Retreat and Rainforest Sanctuary in Limon, Costa Rica. It will be a week of yoga, meditation, intention setting, beach and rainforest adventures, and quiet reflection surrounded by nature.

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The retreat is through Trip Tribe, and the package includes:

  • Daily morning yoga (all levels welcomed), intention setting journaling and discussion (optional), evening restorative yoga and meditation, all with yours truly
  • 2 meals per day – breakfast and dinner (all dietary requests will be honored)
  • Lodging in Caribbean style casitas built with precious native woods nestled within lovely tropical gardens and the lush forest or semi-private bungalows with large outdoor verandas and hammocks overlooking the rainforest.
  • Daily shuttle buses to the beach
  • A variety of adventures and services are also available to you:
  • Samasati Biological Reserve Tour with Scott Mckenzie – $25
  • Vegetarian Caribbean Cooking Class – $45
  • Thai Yoga Massage – $130
  • Heaven and Earth – Craniosacral & Reflexology – $120
  • Rainforest Massage – $95
  • Chocolate – Coffee Body Treatment – $130
  • Rainforest Renewal – $120
  • Sunburn Therapy – $110
  • Tortuguero One Day – $99
  • Gandoca- Manzanillo Rainforest Hike – $70
  • Bird Watching Tour – $65
  • Surf Lesson – $70
  • Indian Reserve, Chocolate Process and Waterfall – $50
  • White Water Rafting at the Pacuare River – $99
  • Punta Uva Sea Kayak and Rainforest Hike – $70
  • Horseback Riding at the Beach – $75
  • The Jungle Adventure – Zipline, Waterfalls, Swings – $95
  • Kekoldi Indian Reserve – $49
  • Hiking in Cahuita National Park – $45

Reserve your spot here:

https://triptribe.com/trips/rest-reflect-renew

I would love for you to join me on this incredible adventure.

 

 

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Teaching Yoga is Hard

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Not that long ago I was chatting with a student before class and in all sincerity she said, “Teaching yoga is hard.” Initially I was a little taken aback. Most people have this idyllic fantasy of what it must be like to teach yoga. While I love what I do and honestly cannot imagine myself doing anything else at this point in my life, it is not always peace, love, and namaste.

Let’s start with the fact that most yoga teachers do not teach at one location. Sure, it can be a gift not to be stuck in an office all day, especially on warm, sunny days. I treasure getting to take walks outside throughout my day and venturing into neighborhoods I might otherwise never know about. Traveling all over the city can also be exhausting and miserable when it is pouring rain, freezing, or scorching hot. On Mondays I schlepp from my apartment in Brooklyn to a neighborhood in Queens over an hour away. Then I take a train and a bus to another neighborhood in Queens. Next up, a bus and two trains back to Brooklyn. Then, off to two different neighborhoods in Manhattan before heading back home to Brooklyn for the night. Tuesday, I ping pong between Brooklyn and Manhattan twice. It’s just part of the job.

Then there is the schedule. I work when everyone else is off work and have free time when everyone else is working. This can mean early mornings and late nights with large chunks of time in the afternoons free. I also work on the weekends, I have yet to meet a yoga teacher who does not, at least on occasion. The weekdays can get lonely and the weekends can get overbooked. I also content with the blessing and curse of having lots of private clients, which means accommodating everyone’s schedules can sometimes feel like a never-ending, losing battle.

Next up, yoga is not free of awful bosses, mean co-workers, and cranky, demanding, ungrateful clients. Yoga teachers, yoga studio owners, and yoga students are human after all. Currently, I only teach at one studio, owned by two sisters who are a delight to work for and with. I have taught at more than one studio run by owners that were less than yogic, and less than enjoyable to work for. I have dealt with other yoga teachers being mean to me, undermining me, and throwing me under the bus in attempts to get me in trouble for things I did not do. I love my students and have great respect for them all. Students can be incredibly draining, though. Teaching yoga is an exchange of energy, which can be simultaneously energizing and exhausting. Most of my private clients are very open with me, they share their joys and triumphs as well as their disappointments and tragedies. I have witnessed and shared in both hysterical fits of laughter and gut wrenching sobs with private clients, as well as a whole gamut of emotions in-between. The one big difference between teaching yoga and most other jobs, however, is that I rarely see or have to spend time with my co-workers or bosses, sometimes this is a blessing and sometimes this breeds disconnect and feeling a lack of support or community. I also get to choose not to work with private clients that are not a good fit. The random, disruptive, disrespectful student showing up to class at a studio, I do have to work with.

In New York City the average cost of a yoga class is $20. Walking into a packed room it would be easy to assume the teacher is making a small fortune. The reality is, teachers only take home a tiny percentage of that – rent, utilities, liability insurance, management and front desk salaries get paid from that $20 as well. Some studios pay teachers a flat rate per class while others offer a base pay then a certain amount per student. Private students can be lucrative, but unstable. People go away, get sick and injured, have family emergencies, schedule changes, etc. Bear in mind too, we do not get paid sick and vacation days or benefits, all of that comes out of pocket. That being said, I am one of the fortunate ones able to eek out a decent living teaching full-time, something I am truly grateful for.

So yes, teaching yoga is amazing. Teaching yoga is also hard. No job is without a downside or aspects that are less than enjoyable. I think the most we can hope for is a job that is fulfilling more often than not. And for me, that happens to be teaching yoga.

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Yoga for All

I have said it before, and I will say it again, yoga is for everyone. Not every class, teacher, or style is for everyone, but yoga is for all bodies. Watching students, of all shapes, sizes and ages, actively taking care of themselves is beautiful and inspiring to me.

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Ushering in 2016

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As we say good-bye to one year and prepare to usher in a new one, I found myself asking two questions to all of my private clients. I wanted a way to loosely guide and inform how to deepen our work together and help each person utilize his or her practice to grow into the best version of him or herself. I invite you to consider these questions for your own practice.

  1. What pose would you like to finally be able to do?                                                               This could be some crazy hard, pretzely pose or one that demonstrates great feats of strength or balance. Or, this could be a simple pose that you struggle to find proper alignment in. The point here is not to necessarily be able to do said pose by the end of 2016, it is to explore your physical capabilities, safely push your boundaries, and discover something new about your strength, flexibility, or balance.
  2. How do you want to physically and emotionally feel in 2016?                                         Yoga is about connecting mind, body, and spirit. This is about being clear with how you want your time on your mat to impact your overall wellbeing. What we cultivate on our mats will slowly begin to infiltrate our time off our mats. Again, this is not about achieving what you set out to do 100% of the time, or even at all. This is about cultivating mindfulness, nonjudgmental honestly, and compassion for ourselves as we continue on our paths to overall wellbeing.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!

 

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Patience with Anger and Aggression – As Told By Pema Chödrön

I usually don’t repost long pieces of writing by others here, but I am making an exception. Things have been rough lately. Yes, it’s true, not even your yoga teacher has it all figured out…we are human after all. One of the things I struggle with is patience. One of the other things I struggle with is keeping my mouth shut when I have been hurt or something goes wrong. This piece of writing by Pema Chödrön hit home for me right now. I share it in hopes that something resonates with you as well and we can all, together, have the courage to be patient with our anger and aggression.

http://www.lionsroar.com/the-answer-to-anger-aggression-is-patience/

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