The Things We Say


During my training, we were taught to become aware of our language. We were encouraged to be direct, avoid surrounding the guidance in cushions of ‘want’ or ‘need’ – like saying, “I want you to rotate your upper thighs back” or stating things in the future, “And then we’re going to push up into cobra.” It is simpler to hear “Rotate your thigh muscles,” “Push up into cobra.”

As you teach you become aware of new ways to describe a moment, new angles, new metaphors. And sometimes, you try one that doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve definitely tried some pose descriptions that seem natural to me, but have my students craning their necks to look up at me wondering what the heck I’m talking about. A shaft of light from where? Rotate my what, now?

I haven’t been in front of a class for a little while now, but I read a blog today that reminded me of teaching, of being a person, of loving the whole concept behind being a human being in front of other human beings in yoga. And, it made me laugh.

I’m starting to find my own language in teaching… the phrases that come naturally. The pauses. The intentions. But there’s one thing I get a little hung up on: What to call the tushie/bum/buttocks/rumpside/tu-tu during class. I’ve been experimenting with different words and when I’m already talking about various muscles I, of course, say “gluteus”. But that’s that’s just so… ew. Can’t like it. So last night as I was teaching bow pose, I heard the word “butt cheeks” slip out of my mouth. And some students started giggling. And then I started giggling. It was bad. (Laughing in bow pose is really challenging!)

[via Penelope Illustration]

As a teacher, and a student, I think a little laughing in yoga is a good thing. And I love being able to see my teacher as a real person, not just a lithe body and demonstrative voice.

My dad often makes jokes during long pose-holds to help people let go. And I’ve always thought a little levity was welcome. Though, full-on giggle fits have been rare

What do you think about a prana-induced giggle attack? Is levity a distraction?

The illustration in this post is also by Penelope Dullaghan, and if you like it, you should visit her shop.

Watching the clock

My dad and I made a pact to support one another in our efforts towards healthy eating over the holiday. Well, apparently neither one of us saw me go for the chips and dip. Or the pudding pie. Friday I went to his class, and did an hour and a half of digestive twists. And this morning I wanted more.

Usually I do a 20-30 minute practice in the morning before walking the dog and getting ready for work. After this weekend, especially, I knew I needed more. By body craved the practice.

Forty minutes into the practice, Dawnelle leads us into eagle pose and I literally stood up and said: are you f*$&ing kidding me?

Er, I guess my mind needed the practice too. After Eagle, I stopped the podcast. I took a deep breath and went into a nurturing forward fold. I stayed there for a couple of minutes before I started up again. Just breathing. Letting go of the time, letting go of what my mind wanted to do in that moment – which was stop the damn yoga and get on with the day.

How many times have we heard teachers say that yoga on the mat helps us with our lives off the mat? I’ve said it myself many times. This morning, those poses held for me chaos and tension, and I wanted to stop and move on. Get on with something else, anything but staying there and breathing through that tension.

So I’m left pondering where in my life I’m passing by the chaos and tension – ignoring it and moving on to other things. On the yoga mat, I’m always pleased that I didn’t give up. Always glad I practiced through the tension and the monkey mind. How would things change if I did that in life? I’m not sure what the life-practice would look like, but it’s a question I’m convinced is worth thinking about.

Practice Intuition

penelope illustration [image via penelope dullaghan at penelope illustration]

I keep on wandering and refocusing. Losing my way and finding it again. Lately, I’ll feel blue, and then remember what I’m doing and not doing to help or hinder myself. I’m doing a lot of second guessing, and a lot of not trusting myself.

In light of all that, it made me smile to stumble across a post on One Sadhana that brings up a simple way to stay aware, and one that I could use to help me not lose my way.

[Here’s] a little exercise in just becoming aware of how your choices affect you. It’s to ask yourself the question:

“Does this strengthen me? Or weaken me?” And then listen for your own answer.

[read the whole post]

I liked her examples: from asking if eating that extra cookie to checking Facebook, or staying in this relationship/situation will “strengthen me? or weaken me?” It’s such a simple approach to those daily, and sometimes mindless, decisions.

When I feel off, I frequently can’t quite figure out why without examination – and, frankly, when I’m blue I’m often lazy. Too lazy for real self-examination. But I like this micro approach.

Go out for a drink, or go home and cook dinner? Strengthen or weaken? Sleep in or hit the yoga mat. Strengthen or weaken? There’s no judgement there at all. It’s not about the right answer. It’s about checking in with yourself. I like that it’s just a simple way of listening to my intuition – to practice intuition.

Out of habit or fear, I still do things that weaken me. I think we all do, or else wouldn’t we all just ascend? That said, it feels encouraging to have a new, little tool at my disposal to practice my own intuition.

julia lee and more

I’ve been off track in my practice lately. Thrown off track by life, decisions, moving across the country – again – this time on my own. Back to NY and back to a less stable but, ultimately, more promising place.

This weekend, I’m heading up to Kripalu to help a dear teacher of mine with a workshop she’s leading. It’s an almost unbelievable opportunity as I know I need this time to immerse myself in yoga and, what’s more, shift my focus to others instead of myself.

In the meantime, I’ve been poking around the interweb for yogic inspiration. I know it usually comes on the mat, or on a walk, or at least out in nature. But sometimes the couch is where it’s at. Thank goodness for yoga blogs.

I found julie lee yoga through Daily Cup of Yoga.

(Don’t be put off by posts like “5 steps to beautiful skin.” Daily Cup offers some amount of insight everyday – some days it’s the perfect inspiration and other days it’s not for me. But to have an everyday resource for inspiration is wonderful.)

Julia Lee, on the other hand, is a new read for me. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to become a daily read as well. Inspirational quotes and stories of her own journey. Part of me wonders why I even bother with this on-again-off-again blogging when people like Julie are out there putting her fingers to the keys everyday, and her body on the mat.

Despite my inner gremlins, I wanted to share some of her inspiration here. This post in particular struck because it asks what living yoga really is.

In a perfect world (or in a world where money grows from trees), yoga would be freely accessible to all. There would be no such thing as $100 spandex pants or exorbitant yearly pass prices. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place – nor does money grow from trees…

I realized that my definition of yoga had been tainted and warped by the influence of the modern world. Yoga isn’t only about sporting the top-of-the-line clothing and accessories, and studying with “yoga celebrities”. That’s probably the worst interpretation of yoga there is. Yoga is a lifestyle, a conscious decision to make the world around you a better place. Just because I practice to online videos on a mat in my room doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. I am living my yoga when I do kind things, when I act with mindfulness and intention. Each day I embrace the true principles of the yamas and niyamas, I am engaging myself in the practice of yoga. So what did I learn today? I learned yoga doesn’t equate to dollar signs, and that I can be a true yogini after all.