August 14, 2018
Turning off the tape recorder
Ok, I lied. This post is not going to be about what I saw in the photo from my previous post. But don’t worry; I will get to that at some point. However, I just got back from one of my yoga classes and the focus of the class was one that really struck a chord for me.
Every week we focus on a certain chakra and what those chakras control and maintain. This week was about the chakra that controls stubbornness, your will, and your intellect- the Manipura Chakra.
Now, if you know me at all you know that I am very much a Capricorn and this makes me extremely stubborn. Yeah, I admit it. I can be very pigheaded and pretty much always want to believe I’m right. But, sometimes my stubbornness works in my favor- so it’s a good balance. But, what a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am also insanely hard on myself. I have a constant tape recorder going through my head that pretty much tells me I fail at life. Obviously this isn’t true- in fact based on facts alone I’m pretty damn successful. However, this tape recorder jades my view of this. During everyone’s favorite part of yoga (the part where you take a 10 minute cat nap) our instructor guided us through a mantra or meditation type thing. She stated that the only thing holding us back from being the new us and being successful is that stupid little tape recorder. Granted she stated it a bit more eloquently, but you get the point.
This really resonated with me and was kind of a wake up kick to my head. I know that I’ve been told a million times to not listen to the negative thoughts that go through my head on an hourly basis- but I’ve never really felt the push to really work on this idea. I mentioned in a previous post that I saw a therapist (yup- going back to this now). Well, she is one of the biggest advocates for turning off the tape recorder. Until I started seeing her I always half-heartedly followed the advice. But, with her I’ve actually tried (yeah she’s that awesome). Well, I felt and thought that I had tried anyways.
Now that I’m sitting here mulling over the words my yoga instructor stated tonight I realized that this isn’t necessarily true. I did try and truly thought I was making an effort- but, I was still letting my tape recorder control just how much effort I put in and what seemed like enough. This stuff isn’t easy ya know? I realize now that it’s never going to be easy to just brush off the thoughts and negative feelings, but I can’t put half the effort in and expect extraordinary results. I think I have also finally realized that it’s not going to be “all in a day’s work” and that it’s going to take time and a lot of practice.
I’ll probably mess up a few times and I’ll probably grow quite a bit more too. But, I guess that’s kind of the point of everything in life right? My challenge to you this week is to turn (or try to turn) off the tape recorder- even if only for a minute. Take those 60 seconds and realize just how epically amazing and awesome and unique and powerful you are.
For more: http://amkantrovich.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/turning-off-the-tape-recorder/
Andrea has been a student at SSYS since we opened in 2009.
February 27, 2013
Some people have epiphanies. Some people recognize the signs sent to them a little easier.
For me, the signs weren’t enough, nor the pit in my stomach; none of the warning signs were heeded. So, the need for change hit me like a freight train and happened all at once. The end of a dependent relationship, financial turmoil, bad career decisions—it all came to a brutal head.
When I was finally able to come up for air, I found myself at a yoga retreat in Central America, shaking, crying, and cradling myself in a ball on the floor in a room full of strangers. It wasn’t the bottom; I was still in free fall and desperately looking for anyone to cling to and tell me that it was all going to be OK. I was looking for any way to avoid spending time alone, having to face the thoughts in my head.
Every morning of that retreat, I waded waist deep into the ocean, tears running down my face, begging the Universe to send someone to love me. The emptiness felt all encompassing. To be alone with myself felt like a death sentence, even if for just a few minutes.
Over the next several months I ingratiated myself in the world of yoga: classes, teacher training, blogs, conferences. Still searching desperately for the answer to come to me in one glorious, life rendering moment—convinced that yoga and now the universe were obligated to bring me love, someone to take care of me, to fill the emptiness that was my ever-present companion.
After months of trying to squeeze my intended purpose from the yoga stone, I found myself turning away from it altogether. I was angry.
Look at how much time I had dedicated, how many days I had bowed my head to the mat showing gratitude and still, the universe hadn’t paid up. I was still alone, still scared. The pit in my stomach grew, I felt as if I would turn inside out from loneliness.
A few months after telling my yoga mat to go kiss off and turning away from my practice altogether, I moved thousands of miles from the city I had always called home. I moved away from all of the people who told me “it will be all right” as I went through another breakdown. Away from all the comforts. Into isolation. To a city where I knew no one. Living alone for the first time. No safety net.
I even tried a few yoga classes again, but was frustrated when my body betrayed me, not able to bend itself into poses as easily after months of neglect. My ego once again bruised, I felt my relationship with yoga to be even more strained than ever.
But living alone was where I first started to hear myself and feel a connection to the things I had learned about meditation. I found myself able to find some peace in the quiet when life was strained. When I would break down and reach for the phone to make a long distance plea for comfort, I heard my own voice saying “it will be all right. It will be better than all right. You are fine. Breathe.”
It was in this solitary life that I began, perhaps for the very first time, to look at my naked body each morning, finding places I am growing to love more each day—parts of me I used to see as flaws or opportunities for rejection.
Now, it is my own voice that I hear saying, “I love you, breathe,” when the void feels ever so wide. And for the first time, those words don’t fill me with the fear of potential loss and the desperation to hold on for dear life.
I know that this is the love that I will never lose.
In a recent yoga class, when my stiffened body was unable to move fully into poses, it brought a smile to my face instead of my previous go to, “I hate my body. Why is this so hard for me? And only me?” I know that limitations are a part of life. My relationship with myself and with yoga are an everyday practice that will likely always be far from perfect, and none of us are without our imperfections and insecurities.
When I bowed my head to that dusty, neglected mat at the end of class, I realized that I am finally finding appreciation for the tough love that this practice has shown me.
This blog comes courtesy our friends at elephant: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/02/back-to-the-mat-my-reconciliation-with-yoga-heather-ohare/
February 21, 2013
Nine simple things that every yoga teacher can do to make class a little bit more awesome.
Rule 1: Pay Attention to me!
Most yoga teachers really like yoga and also happen to be very good at it. These traits, however, do not mean that I’m taking your class to watch you be awesome. If that’s what I was seeking, I’d flip on your youtube channel. Please don’t forget the real, live, disgustingly sweaty people right there behind you. So, goddamnit, pay attention to us!
The best teachers strike a balance between showing off their mad skills and watching students struggle to get the little things right. They use their strength and ability to demonstrate or highlight certain aspects of a pose rather than to show off a one-handed side crow headstand that they’ve been working on in their Super-level eight goddess class.
If I leave class thinking, “Wow, that teacher was sooo good at yoga,” then something went horribly wrong. I should walk by the treadmills on my way out of the gym thinking, “Wow, I am freaking awesome at yoga. Suck it, runners!”
Rule 2: Introduce yourself to your students:
Loyal readers of mine will remember that I’m working on introducing myself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce yourself to me first.
All it takes is a one second conversation in which the teacher comes over and says, “Hey, I’m [insert hippie name]. Have you done yoga before? Any questions? Namaste, bro.” Boom. Instant openness and camaraderie.
However, since we’re preaching mindfulness here, just remember to be mindful of your junk:
3. Ignore Anything You Weren’t Supposed to See.
Look, things happen in yoga classes. Like the time I saw the entire left ball of the guy practicing next to me. Or how every time I jump from a standing fold into a push up, my shirt flies up a little bit, exposing the lower portion of my back (aka the upper portion of my ass). Look, I realize that the teacher is going to see everything that’s going on down there. Maybe he or she will even give it a once or twice over to size me up. Totally cool. There’s just no need to draw attention to the fact that I’ve got a little hair down there. Or that my love handles make twisting poses slightly more difficult.
How about we just agree to keep a few things between us?
In other words, maybe the moment my naked back and partially naked ass are exposed is not the best time for you to do that adjustment. You know the one. It’s when you grab my hips and pull them back or rest your hand on the sweaty small of my back and push with all your might. Yeah, save that for my first down dog. Just before the sweating starts.
I suspect we’ll both be happy with that agreement.
4. If you’re gonna Om, Om loudly.
At first, I admittedly did not like chanting “om.” Now, I can tolerate it. Maybe sometimes it’s kind of nice. Oh whatever. You caught me. I like it. So what. This isn’t the place for judgment.
Listen up, teachers: If you’re going to start with an Om, then do so with gusto-mmmm. Trust me, the class will follow your lead. But if you are timid and mousy with your om, then guess what? Your class will be quiet and timid and self-conscious when they holla’ back.
Also—and this is admittedly quite selfish of me—I’m 100 percent tone-deaf, so if you say it loud and say it proud, then I can join in without others noticing that I am the discordant MF’er ruining spiritual bliss.
5. Remember my name and use it.
We’ve already agreed that introductions are key. Well, that’s the easy part. The hard part is remembering those names and then using them throughout class. A deftly timed “Nice job, Bikram,” or “Sweet crow, Baba,” or “Pull your hips back, Tara” really pulls those people into the class.
But surprisingly, even when the teacher refers to someone else by name, I find that I try harder.
I’m all, “I want that too.” “Hey look at me!” “Don’t you think my crow is good?” “I’m trying so hard over here, you guys!”
Even a “whoa, looking a little sweaty, Rob” wins me over. Or, if you want to ignore rule three, I’ll even take an “I can see a little bit of your ass crack, Rob. Pull up your pants, you disgusting slob.”
6. Go easy on the Rumi, okay?
Oh wow, you studied at an Ashram in India! And then you memorized all of Rumi’s quotes? You don’t say! That’s amazing!!! Sincerely.
But you know who doesn’t even know what an Ashram is? Guess who never took English 101 in college and doesn’t understand “quotes”? Oh yeah, that’s right! This guy.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on Rumi altogether. What it means is that you should feel free to explain things to me. Even the stuff that seem painfully obvious. Because when you say a quote and then say, “well that speaks for itself,” what I’m thinking is “No. That doesn’t speak for itself. I hate this stupid class. I don’t get it. Wah wah wah poor me.”
While I’m thinking that, I’m sitting there nodding my head pretending to look like I have the slightest clue what you’re saying. Then I start thinking, “Damn, I bet she smoked a toooonnnnn of a pot in college. That’s so hot.”
7. Come On, Speak English.
For the first three months I practiced yoga, I mistakenly thought every Sanskrit word meant Savasana. For any non-yoga people reading this, Savasana is a made up word that literally translates to “lie on the floor while thinking about everything you were supposed to do today but didn’t.”
Yoga teachers of America, you know how to fix that problem? Just speak English. We all understand English (except the Latvian woman who sometimes comes to that Vinyasa flow class on Wednesdays), so everyone will be on the same page when you say “Do crow.”
An added benefit: You may avoid that tattoo in Sanskrit. The one you think means, “Peaceful Warrior” but actually means, “judgmental douchebag” Oops!
8. Be Considerate of Your Diverse Class When Giving Instructions.
So what if your class is usually all hot limber women? I’m here now, and I’d like to feel welcome, too! In order to make everyone feel at home, yoga teachers should give instructions that are mindful of the entirety of the class, not its largest component.
So no more “put this block under your bra strap,” or “you should feel a good stretch in your vagina.”
9. Make Class Fun!
This goes without saying, but if I’m having fun, I’m not thinking about how much I hate the teacher for all of the horrible painful things she’s making me do. So make it fun.
One incredibly east way to make yoga more fun is by sharing this post with everyone you’ve ever met. And then following this blog at www.robpollak.com or on facebook.
This blog comes courtesy of Rob Pollack: http://robpollak.com/2013/01/16/9-rules-every-yoga-teacher-should-follow/
February 19, 2013
1. Bad situations in life are only temporary.
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston Churchill
Life is messy—bad things happen to good people. We all face hardships, but what makes us human is the ability to bounce back. We can become more resilient than we did before. Some things happen that we have no control over.
You can find strength in situations that you never thought possible if you just keep moving forward.
2. Be open and compassionate.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein
Sometime events occur in your life that cause you to close. You assume every situation is going to occur the same way: if you were hurt once, you will be hurt again. This is not true. It’s better to forgive than to hold a grudge.
3. Things aren’t going to always workout the way you plan.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
Don’t approach life with expectations of how things should or shouldn’t be. So many conflicts in life occur because someone is attached to a plan on how things should or shouldn’t work.
It’s alright to have goals, aspirations and dreams, but you don’t have to be set on a particular outcome. Sometimes the worst tragedies in people’s life turn out to be the best.
4. People’s opinions of you are not who you are.
“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Some people might say terrible things to you—who cares!? They might make a comment on your work, or your blog post. There’s no reason you need internalize it. Some people aren’t conscious of the things they say to people. So just be compassionate towards them.
5. You’re going to fail at things.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fail, fail and fail some more. Find inspiration in children, how many times does a child fail before they get something right, children are constantly trying new things and failing. Learn from them!
Go out and try new things! No one has ever been good at something without failing.
6. Find a reason to laugh every day.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin
I think there is no greater mood lifter than to find a way to laugh every day. Find people every day to have a good laugh with.
7. Some days are good; some days are bad.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu
I one time was in line at a bank, and I heard something that changed my life. The clerk said to a customer, “How’s business?” The customer responded, “Some days good, some days bad.” Then the customer smiled.
You’re not your car; you’re not your fear; you’re not your feelings. Some days you will have good feelings, some days you will have bad feelings.
8. Do what you love every day.
“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” ~ Rumi
If you’re a writer, do it every day. If you’re a musician, do it every day. If you’re an actor, do it every day. If you’re a bobsledder, do it every day.
Whatever you like to do—just do it. But make sure you do it every day. Because if you do it every day you’ll become good at it, and when you’re good at something you can make a living out of it, if you decide to.
Who do you need permission from—your friends? This is not their life. This is your life. Do what you love to do.
9. Find some time to do some meditation.
“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” ~ Gandhi
I don’t care if you hate spirituality and you think meditation is for people that live on top of a mountain and eat plants. You might just feel better if you take some time throughout the day to close your eyes and check in with your breathing.
If you think meditation is weird—that’s your opinion—it doesn’t mean it’s right. There are over 3,000 studies on the effects of meditation and over 2,500 years of Eastern philosophy behind it. I don’t understand why everyone in the world doesn’t at least try meditation. I think the world would be a better place.
10. Be a rebel—with a cause.
“I rebel; therefore I exist.” ~ Albert Camus
Break the rules. Who cares?! Don’t get arrested or doing anything illegal, but it’s alright to break the rules. Anyone who ever did anything worth doing was a trouble maker. Steve Jobs—trouble maker. Albert Einstein—trouble maker. Amelia Earhart—trouble maker. It’s alright to be a troublemaker and break free from the status quo.
This blog comes courtesy our friends at elephant: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/02/10-principles-about-life-to-look-at-every-day/
July 10, 2012
Ever been stuck in a class utterly perplexed by the lexicon of yogaspeak? Me too! Thankfully I have compiled a cheat sheet for all your mind-bending yoga cue needs. Translation, please!
I took a yoga class recently at an unfamiliar studio as part of my yoga teacher training. Being the practicing yogini that I am, I settled myself down on my mat and tried to keep an open mind. To say that I needed a dictionary to understand the teacher’s cues would be an understatement. I needed a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia. A short tour inside her yogi brain wouldn’t have hurt either! So in order to save you some awkward pauses, and to help yoga teachers avoid confused looks, I decided to share my top 10 translations with you!
YOGA CUE: TRANSLATION
1. Blossom your fingers: No, your fingers did not turn into flowers in the few seconds you haven’t been looking. This probably just means engage or spread your fingers. Done.
2. Find your breath: No worries, your breath was never lost – just use your nose and suck in air like you’ve been doing all your life!
3. Puff your kidneys: If your teacher tells you this, you have my permission to give her a perplexed stare until she/he realizes this cue is just plain dangerous. Seriously, if you have puffed kidneys, visit a doctor.
4. Spiral your thigh bones out like a rainbow: I don’t know about you, but this comes off rather kinky. Anusara cue or not, if your teacher is staring straight at you and starts to speak like a leprechaun while saying this…run far, far away.
5. Open your heart space: The gist here is to broaden your chest, slide your shoulder blades down, expand your rib cage via your breath, relax your neck muscles, pull in your core… THIS is your heart “space.”
6. Feel the river of energy flow through your core: Huh? Last time I checked I didn’t notice a river flowing through me. I wonder if there’s a forest too? Maybe some fishes? Hold on let me go check. In short, feel the burn.
7. Allow the back of your heart to curve: Don’t freak out here, I can’t curve my heart either – curve your thoracic spine (behind your heart) and you’ll be good.
8. Flutter your butt cheeks: Pardon? I may be wrong but I believe (HOPE) this means engage your mula bandha. I don’t know about you, but I don’t flutter my butt cheeks for just anyone. Hug your midline. Engage your core towards the center of your body and don’t forget to breathe! Or go on, hug yourself, it’s your prerogative.
9. Shine the heart forward as if it’s springing out of your chest: Egads, if my heart sprung out of my chest I would be too busy dying to worry about shining forward. If you see shining and/or springing hearts, I recommend calling 911. Spread your collar bones, chest forward. Safety first.
Well there you have it! I hope you yogis and yoginis are better equipped to handle obscure cues now. When in doubt just breathe and look around the room to see what everyone else is doing. Odds are, they are just as confused as you so at least you won’t be alone!
A few of my favorites worth honorable mention (and yes, these were all really instructions given in a class):
Remove the fluff from your sitz bones
Make space in your kidneys
Make your collarbones bright
Hug the muscles to your bones
Draw up through the legs as if your are putting on a pair of pantyhose
Let your spine pour out like water
Imagine there are 2 windows where you buttocks meet your thighs, now open those windows
I had a teacher during my YTT whose catchphrase was “blossom those buttocks.” And I do believe one teacher of yore instructed us to imagine a lotus blossoming internally from our perineum. I never knew our nether regions were so floral. Maybe my farts really do smell like roses!