Yoga Practice Class #2

I taught my second community (aka free) class at Indigo on 5/20.  Here are my notes for the class, so you can get a general idea of what I covered.

Calming, evening class

Sorry for the poor quality of the picture, but if I wait to get a better scan, I’ll never end up making this post. ūüôā

I wanted to design a class that would be relaxing, help people to sleep well, and that would target some common areas of pain for people – shoulders & wrists. ¬†I think that’s probably too many things to focus on in one class, but I’m new and learning, so why not try it and see if it works, right? ¬†Right??

I started out the class the same way that Max Strom started out our day-long intensive at the Dubuque Yoga Fest Рwith chest breathing in the easy-cross-leg position, a gentle twist, and then chest breathing in horse stance.  I made some (what I considered to be) hilarious quip about horse stance being named such because it looks as if you are riding a horse.  The class indulgently smiled at me.  Yoga students are so nice.

I did far fewer sun salutations than I did during my first class. I filled the void with more therapeutic moves – wrist stretches, twists, lots of child’s poses. I also kept reminding¬†people to relax their faces – especially the furrow between the eyes (my furrow is over-developed and needs massive amounts of work!). I also encouraged them to put that slight Mona Lisa smile on their face.

Then I closed the class with a gratitude meditation. I encouraged people to think about someone indispensable¬†to their joy and happiness. ¬†I asked them to steep their bodies in that positive emotion during the 5-7 minute savasana. ¬†As savasana wound down, I walked around and put a little card on everyone’s mat. ¬†I spent 5 minutes that morning cutting up watercolor paper and writing “GRATITUDE” on the slips of paper in purple ink. Next to the word, I drew a little smiley face. ūüôā ¬†When I closed the class, I told them they could take the cards as a reminder to focus on the things they are grateful and to keep smiling.

I stole/borrowed that idea from Sadie Nardini. ¬†She said she gave¬†Hersey’s Kisses or other little treats to her students to show how appreciative she was that they came to her class and enabled her to live her dream. I really liked that idea. ¬†Plus I have ¬†shit ton of art supplies because, you know, some day I’m going to become an artist. ¬†This was a good reason to use some of them up.

The class of 14 was over 30% filled with my friends and loved-ones, which really helped keep me calm.  But even people who are not beholden to love and support me really seemed to enjoy the class.  As people were walking out, everyone was smiling and chatting.  It made me SO happy that I was able to help a few people become a little happier for an evening.

So, again, I totally loved teaching again. ¬†Shannon said something today that really rang true to me. He said that teaching is a meditation. And I can totally see that. You can’t focus on anything else. You need to stay in the moment and focused.

My next community class isn’t until 6/17, but on the 11th I’m teaching a group of friends after work, and then in late June I’m teaching a lunchtime yoga class at work. I’ve received clearance from HR to officially teach a class at work, but I’m doing a practice session with my close work-friends first. If that goes well, I’ll send an invite out to our whole branch and see who shows up. ¬†I’m really nervous about that one though – teaching yoga to people I kind of know and who I want to think well of me is intimidating! ¬†All these people know the work/Project Manager/Business Analyst -Heather. Not the yoga-Heather who measures chakras and has been annoying all her office-mates with YTT news over the past 6 months.

Speaking of which, YTT is drawing to a close. Our last day together is the 17th. I am SO SAD it’s ending. ¬†But I’m so happy I experienced it. ¬†I am so happy I signed up for this class.

Well, that’s it for the night. It’s time for me to crash. ¬†As always, thank you for reading! If you’re a fellow yoga-lover or teacher, please let me know what you love and/or hate in classes that you take or teach.

Take care!

The sickness of busyness

Ugh – boy do I have it. ¬†Life lately has been rather insane. ¬†Mostly it’s insane with good stuff – yoga teacher training, the yoga festival, meeting friends for supper, visiting the parents, doing yoga observation hours, exercising, reading, making water kefir, cooking, working on the garden, planting flowers. These are all things I love to do, but Jesus Christ, it all takes so much time!

And there is so much more that I WANT to do. So many more books to read, things to paint or draw, blankets and coozies¬†to crochet, walks to take, podcasts to listen to, friends to keep in touch with, writing to do. ¬†But I just don’t have time. ¬†I really need to just quit my job. ¬†That’s the only way to get my life back in balance again. ūüôā ¬†But, unfortunately, I don’t think that can happen any time soon. ¬†There are too many classes I want to take, too many yoga clothes I want to buy, and too much eating out that I want to do. ¬†Hopefully yoga will help me reign in all these wants, and I will eventually find that I have just enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that I need to do to make me happy.

ANYWAY, had another great day at YTT today. ¬†We learned how to teach a stress management class that you can do in a corporate setting. ¬†This is something that I am very interested in, since it’s the world I live in every day. I’m surrounded by people who are even more busy and more stressed out than I am, and I would love to get them a little relief. ¬†These people SOOOOO need yoga. Well, everyone needs yoga, but these people that I care about and work with daily would be so much happier with some yoga in their lives. ¬†I’m going to ask HR if I can do some free 30 minute lunch hour sessions. It will help me get my practice hours, and it will also help me gauge the level of interest at the bank for these kinds of things in the future.

The rest of the day was spent learning about how to use the wall to teach people correct alignment in asanas, learning about adjustments for certain postures, and in doing some practice teaching.  Oh, and in getting free strawberry plants, sugar cookies cut out in asana shapes, and handmade chapstick.  Awesome. This is the kind of people we have in our YTT group.

But now I am severely beat. ¬†Severely. I ran this morning for 3 miles, which I used to do with regularity and almost without effect. However, I don’t run as much as I used to due to¬†the aforementioned disease of business. ¬†So when I do run, crap, am I ever beat afterwards!

Anyway, I hope you are having an excellent weekend!  Tell me, if the company you worked for offered free lunch-time yoga classes, would you go?  And if so, what would you want to learn/do??

Yoga Adjustments and Exercises for Office Workers

Good morning and Happy Mother’s Day! ¬†I’m sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, listening to their gargantuan fridge make creepy noises, looking out over their grassy lawn, past the farm across the road, and skimming over the undulating fields speckled with farm houses and tree, topped by a blue, lavender, and white sky ¬†It’s a pretty site to see in the morning – better than the row of houses and garages that I see from our house in the morning. ¬†It’s very convenient living in the center of town, but I miss the quiet and the views of the country. ¬†Maybe Tim and I can start following the way of life (save 40%+ of our income) and retire to a cute¬†little country house somewhere before we are 65. ¬†With a massive garden¬†and¬†a solid internet connection, we’d be all set.

Anyway, I digress. I really meant to talk about 2 things this morning. 1. ¬†My experience assisting one of my YTT friends with her Community class yesterday, and 2. Some final notes from Max’s day-long intensive.

My friend, Angela, taught her first Community class at Indigo yesterday, and I offered to be her second – someone to walk around and adjust people and to just generally help out. ¬†As I was doing it, I realized that for me personally, just standing at the front of the class telling people how to do the asanas is easier than walking around and adjusting them! ¬†Adjustments are so much more personal. I really hate conflict, and even though giving adjustments is a beneficial and helpful thing to do, to me it still feels a bit like you are telling the student they are doing something wrong. ¬†CONFLICT. ¬†It’s hard for me to do! ¬†Also, I find that it’s hard to clearly communicate how you want the student to alter their behavior. ¬†I think that comes primarily from talking quietly, so as to not disturb the whole class with the one-on-one instruction. ¬†I am kind of whispering, and the student is kind of whispering, and neither one of us is really understanding each other.

After the class ended, one of the students asked me for some help with her downward dog.  Now THAT Рjust having one student who you could fully explain things to Рwas more my cup of tea.  So far, I do not like giving adjustments in a class setting, but I do like giving them one-one-one, where I can more clearly communicate with the student.

As with all things that make me uncomfortable, it was a good learning experience though. I am sure that the more times I do adjustments, the more comfortable I will feel with them.  We only have 3 YTT weekends left, and it sounds as if we are going to be doing A LOT of practice adjustments during that timeframe.  At first I was kind of disappointed because, honestly, giving adjustments is my least favorite part of the training.  I would rather be DOING yoga, learning about the philosophy, learning about anatomy, or learning about sequencing. But after Wednesday night, I realize that I really do need more experience in this area.

Hmm. ¬†This is already kind of a long post. Let me just tie this up with a few more quick tidbits from Max’s class. ¬†There are still a ton of points to cover, but I want to focus on the tips he gave us for office works, since that’s a pool of folks I’m interested in teaching.

If you have an office job, I’m sure you are already familiar with the effects on your neck, back, and shoulders of staring at a computer all day. ¬†Everything gets tight and weak, and the whole front of your chest starts to collapse. ¬†Max taught us a few¬†asanas that are good for stretching and strengthening¬†these areas.

  1. Cow face arms. ¬†Here is a really good tutorial. ¬†Max says to do this exercise for 60 seconds on each side twice. ¬†If you work at an office, buy a strap and do this 3 times a day (while you are sitting in on yet another boring conference call, perhaps ūüôā ). ¬†I need to talk to my fellow Wellness Team committee members at work about getting some of these straps for our employees!
  2. Reverse Tabletop. ¬†The arms and shins should both be vertical – you may need to step your feet out farther than you think to get the correct alignment in this pose. ¬†Point your fingers out to the side, then back¬†towards the head, and finally towards the feet. Make sure knees don’t splay out or in. ¬†If you have wrist issues, you can sit cross-legged and put your hands behind you, testing out the different hand positions.
  3. Downdog.  Max had some good suggestions for people (like me) who cannot get their heels to the mat.  Bring your feet wider (as wide as your mat, even), and elevate the hands using a stair step or a block.  Practicing this way will help you eventually get your heels to the floor.

And that’s it for today! ¬†I hope you enjoy your Sunday!

Random Yoga Teaching Tips

It’s Friday! ¬†I am so glad. ¬†It’s been a trying week, being back in the real world after a weekend of chilling out in Blissland and then having Monday off. ¬†I’m definitely ready for the weekend.

This morning I’m going to share a few quick tips that I learned in Max Strom’s Inner Axis day-long intensive.

  1. Breath work affects our minds more than the postures.
  2. The fastest way to improve your speaking skills is to record yourself.  Max records himself teaching a class 2 times a week. He uses a small recorder slipped into an arm band.  Then he actually listens to it and essentially takes his own class to see how it flows.  Do any of you do this?  If so, how do it?  What tools do you use?
    1. Take responsibility to say exactly what you mean.
    2. Don’t talk too softly or too quickly.
    3. Be careful about raising your voice at the end of a sentence.  This makes you sound as if you lack confidence.  This is something I need to work on, especially at work!
  3. Probably about 1/3 of our class attendees is¬†sleep-deprived. ¬†A lot of this is due to the blue light emitted from electronic devices. ¬†The light makes our brains think the sun is still up, so the brain doesn’t secrete melatonin, and we can’t fall asleep and STAY asleep. ¬†Help people by teaching a class that helps people sleep better.
    1. Here is a tip I’ve read from other sources – wear a pair of orange goggles at night. ¬†The orange will block the blue light. ¬†Tim and I both wear these when we look at our e-devices at night. ¬†You look kind of nuts, but it helps you sleep!
  4. Teach from a universal platform.
    1. Be careful with religious decorations in the studio (no Buddha statues in the bathroom!).
    2. Be careful of mentions of specific Gods or religions.  You can have a very spiritual class without mentioning any specific religion.  Be inclusive so everyone feels comfortable.
    3. Teach all levels of a posture – easiest to more difficult. The most difficult postures should be taught one-on-one, not to the whole class.
  5. Adapt to your students – teach what they need.
  6. Teach the WHY. ¬†Why breathe from the chest? ¬†Why position your body in this certain way? ¬†Why do yoga at all? ¬†Inquiring minds want to know. ūüôā

Research has shown that people can only easily remember 5-7 items, so I’m going to stop there. ¬†Granted, I kind of cheated because I have sub-bullets in there, but I’m leaving them!

Hope you have a fabulous Friday and that you can get outside, get some sun, and that you can spend time with people you love today.

Teaching my first public class & a list of recommended reading

Last night I taught my first public class through Indigo, the studio where I am doing Yoga Teacher Training. ¬†When we first started YTT, I honestly could not imagine myself teaching. It seemed completely overwhelming and nerve-racking. ¬†All those eyes, looking at you,waiting for you to tell them what to do, trusting you to make them feel better and not hurt them, watching, waiting… ¬†It seemed so intimidating.

And then we did our first adjustments to our fellow students – how could I get comfortable touching people I don’t even know??? ¬†And then we taught our first Sun Salutation to 5 other classmates. ¬†I couldn’t even remember how to do a Sun Saluation. ¬†Mind. Blank. ¬†Then we took turns teaching ONE asana at a time to a group of beginner students. ¬†I think my first pose was side plank. ¬†Super easy asana, but Shannon had to give me little cues to get me started. ¬†All that is to say, it was hard to imagine myself standing up in front of 15 people teaching a sequence of several asanas.

But I did it.

And it was awesome.

The class went really well! ¬†I followed the template that I posted yesterday. ¬†Overall the sequence flowed fairly well. I left out a couple of asanas in the interests of time. ¬†I had 3 friends who attended the class, and I’m going to follow up with them today to see what they thought of the pacing, the volume of my voice, the clarity of my instructions, and the difficulty (or easiness!) of the class. ¬†Immediately after the class a few students said thank you and that they thought it was a good class. ¬†Hopefully they really felt that way!

I’m so glad that I entered this YTT program. I have learned so much, and it’s helped me to see that I am capable of more than I thought. ¬†I haven’t reach my peak yet at 38. ;P

I think I promised a list of recommended reading from the Dubuque Yoga Conference, so here is that list.  Man, I wish I had more time to read!!!

And that’s it for this morning! ¬†Thank you for reading today. If you read any of these books, or check out any of these resources, let me know what you think. ¬†Have a great day!

Beginner’s Yoga Sequence

I don’t have much time to write this morning. ¬†I am teaching my first public yoga class tonight, and I need to practice my planned sequence! I practiced it yesterday morning, and it was about 15 minutes short. I added a few asanas last night, so I need to run through it and see if it works. ¬†Here’s the sequence.

Beginner's yoga sequence with breath work
Beginner’s yoga sequence with breath work

Thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Well wishes?!  I will take whatever I can get!

That’s it for today. ¬†Tomorrow I plan to list out all the book recommendations we received over the weekend.

Have a great day!!


Breathing away anxiety

As I mentioned yesterday, I took twelve pages of notes during Max Strom’s Inner Axis class at the Dubuque Yoga Festival. ¬†He shared a TON of great information, a lot of it centered around how to breath properly and how breathing properly can have a huge impact on a person’s state of mind.

To begin with, he shared some very alarming statistics. ¬†He said that 1 in 4 American women and 1 in 5 American men takes anti-anxiety meds or anti-depressants. ¬†He also said that suicide has overtaken car accidents as the #1 cause of injury death. ¬†He didn’t provide us with these statistics to depress us. He provided them to show that we are safe to assume that at least 1/2 of our yoga classes are filled with people who are not sleeping, have anxiety, are depressed, or have lower back issues. ¬†He advised us to take this into consideration when ¬†designing a class. A good goal for a class is to incorporate asanas and practices (such as deep breathing) that will help students sleep better and that will reduce anxiety.

This approach really resonated with me. I think many people come to yoga with the hope of getting a better boot-tay.  And depending on what type of yoga class you attend, you probably will get a better body, but I want to teach the kind of class where the yoga butt is just a serendipitous side-effect of the class. I want to teach a class that teaches people how to decompress and get centered and calm the fuck down.  (Sorry for the language, Mom!)

Max taught us a different way of breathing Рchest breathing, he calls it.  Place your hands on the sides of your lower ribs.  As you inhale, focus on expanding your chest in all directions.  As you do so, you will feel your stomach and core tighten.  Hold your breath for a few moments, then as you exhale, pull your belly button toward your spine.  Max says this way of breathing helps you physically and emotionally (it helps oxegenate the blood), and it also keeps your core engaged 100% of the time, so you always have its support while moving through asanas (which will help protect your lumbar).

Why do you have to put your hands on your ribs? ¬†Max says that wherever you put your hands on the body, it will move! ¬†This cues your body to move where you want it to or how you want it to. ¬†I find it’s difficult to get my chest to expand without doing this. I think that eventually your muscle memory will get used to it, and you will no longer need to touch your ribs to get them to move the right way.

Let me give a disclaimer – I just learned this on Friday! ¬†I bought A Life Worth Breathing¬†at the festival¬†and plan to read that as soon as I am done with How Yoga Works. As with all teaching, take what resonates with you and research what works and doesn’t work. I plan to incorporate this into my practice. ¬†I teach my first Community Class on Wednesday, and I think I’m going to start with a couple of minutes of this kind of breathing. ¬†We will see how it goes!

Well, that’s enough for this morning. ¬† Thank you for reading! ¬†Let me know if you’ve read either of Max’s books or if you’ve attended his workshops. What do you think? ¬†What has worked well for you?

I hope you have a positive, happy day!

Dubuque Yoga Festival – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Who am I kidding?? ¬†There was no bad OR ugly. ¬†It was just good. ¬†Great, even. ¬†Amazing. ¬†Awesome. ¬†Just really, really bonkers good. Since I’m running out of adjectives, I will start from the beginning.

This was the inaugural year for the Dubuque Yoga Festival. ¬†The organizers, Scott and Julia¬†Theisen, are the owners of Body and Soul in Dubuque, IA. ¬†They did an absolutely amazing job. ¬†I mean, I’ve never been to a yoga festival before, so I can’t compare it to other yoga festivals, but I can compare it to other conferences and conventions I’ve attended. ¬†The organizers did a great job of, well, organizing! ¬†The rooms were clearly laid ¬†out, the agenda was clear, the programming was fantastic, the lunches on Friday and Saturday were thoughtfully planned, ¬†and the entertainment on Friday night was very fun and engaging.

I attended all 3 days of the festival. ¬†On Friday I spent the day with Max Strom learning about “Inner Axis Essentials.” ¬†I took TWELVE pages of notes on his class. ¬†Friday night we went to the evening ceremony which consisted of a keynote address from Sadie Nardini, a yoga/dance/costume runway show that was super colorful, very beautiful, and perfectly done, and a group dance done by people who just oozed rhythm. They were mesmerizing to watch. ¬†They cast on a spell on me to the point that I actually got up and danced some crazy line dance with the rest of the crowd. ¬†I did not do it WELL, mind you, but I did it. ūüôā ¬†It was super fun.

I started Saturday by attending a Kundalini Yoga¬†session at 5AM. ¬†It begin with a 20 minute chant, followed by a 30 minute asana practice, and closed by several other chants. It was interesting to attend, but once was enough for me! Saturday I took a class from Sadie on creating your best yoga class ever. ¬†Then I attended a¬†class ¬†on Raise Your Vibration (using Kundalini yoga)¬†during which I shook out all my bad energy by dancing like I have not since I went to a rave in high school. ¬†Saturday afternoon I took another Sadie class, Learning to Fly. ¬†She helps you use physics to do inversions – bending the elbows and pushing the hands into the earth to push the body up into the air. ¬†I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the two hours, but I had 2 or 3 moments of clarity where I felt the lift of flight. ¬†I practiced her techniques a bit more this morning and was able to hold my crow for longer than I ever have before. ¬†With more practice, I think I will eventually be able to float. ūüôā

We closed out the day by attending a gong ceremony. ¬†What is a gong ceremony, you may ask? ¬†Well, let me tell you! ¬†The attendees circled their mats around 4 or 5 humongous gongs and several crystal bowls. ¬†After an introduction encouraging us to close our eyes and meditate on the sound, we laid back on our mats and were submerged in rolling waves of sound. You could feel the sounds crest and fall over you. ¬†It was unlike anything I’ve experienced. ¬†We were there for an hour, but I think 30 minutes would have been just right. ¬†By the end of the hour, I was very uncomfortable from laying on the hard floor, so my mind kept wandering off the sounds. ¬†However, if you ever get a chance to go to a gong ceremony, DO IT!!

By the time the ceremony was completed, we were utterly exhausted and hungry. ¬†We went to a delicious Ukrainian restaurant, Europa Cafe. ¬†After eating lots of delicious food, we retired to the hotel to watch Mean Girls. ¬†Don’t judge!!

Sunday morning we got coffee and breakfast at a great spot, Jitters Cafe. ¬†They only had breakfast paninis. ¬†When I asked if they had gluten-free bread for the panini, they said, no, but they could add the panini fixings to a spring green salad for me. ¬†Perfect!! It was so tasty. ¬†After breakfast I went to a session on balancing chakras. WHOLE LEE COW. ¬†She showed us how you can measure someone’s chakras by dangling a necklace with a heavy fob on the end over the chakra. ¬†Depending how how it spins and what direction it spins, you can tell the state of that chakra. ¬†I was watching the teacher’s arm very closely to see if she was moving the necklace and causing it to spin. It really didn’t look like it. ¬†I want to try it. ¬†I need to do more research on chakras and see what science there is behind it. Truthfully it kind of freaked me out – not in a way that I was scared of it, just in the way that I felt as if I was seeing magic. ūüôā

After that session, I was supposed to go to Sadie’s Core Transformation class. ¬†But I still felt rather wrecked from the Learning to Fly class. I thought that Max Strom was teaching a chest and shoulders class at the same time, so I decided to go to that instead. ¬†Well, once he started talking, I realized that I was sitting in a workshop on forgiveness! ¬†There was no yoga to be had! ¬†I considered slipping out the back to go to Sadie’s class instead, but that seemed really rude. ¬†Plus the room had a huge wall of windows overlooking the tree-lined bluffs along the Mississippi. It was a beautiful room, and a wise man with lots to teach was speaking. I better stay. ¬†I am so glad I did! ¬†The workshop helped me realize that I am holding on to some things that I did not realize. ¬†I got shit to work on. ¬†That is FO SHO.

The day closed at 12:30 with a ceremony that involved us all sitting in a big room holding hands, sending positive energy to the person next to us, and then sending love to the whole universe.  Yes, yes. I know it sounds hippy dippy.  But man, was it so nice to be around that kind of genuine positivity for 3 days.  Everyone was happy, smiling, helpful, and glad to be in that space and time.  I absolutely loved it.

I will write more about what I learned in the upcoming days.  This blog post is already getting too long.

Oh!  Shoot. I wanted to give some words of advice for others who may be attending their first yoga festival.  BRING SOMETHING TO SIT ON!!  Sitting cross-legged on your mat for 3 days gets to be very uncomfortable. Pack a meditation cushion or yoga block or something.   Also, bring snacks!  None were available around the festival.  And dress in layers.  The conference rooms were wicked cold.  Several attendees brought blankets with them, and they were smart to do so.  And socks.  For the love of God, bring socks.

Ok, now I’m really done. ¬†How about you? ¬†Have you ever been to a yoga festival? Is this what they are usually like?

Take care and talk to you soon!