Teach the teacher daily lesson 2/24/2013

1311_athletic_blond_woman_working_out_on_a_stairmaster_in_a_gymDaily lesson from February 24, 2013 (Teach the teacher):

Letting go of the handrails…

Back in my gym-rat days, I used to snicker at the sorry souls hanging on for dear life to the Stairmaster handrails. Not exactly mastering stairs. More like balancing the latest crumpled version of People magazine over the electronic progress panel (Brad Pitt’s latest meanderings more important than cardio output stats) and exerting the minimum amount butt and  thigh effort needed to keep from tumbling backward.

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve climbed stairs to nowhere, or lifted a dumbbell (I prefer a smart chatturanga over a dumb bicep curl, frankly). But as I stepped into a packed house of yogis awaiting my teaching debut at a brand new studio opening this morning, I thought about those handrails. I wanted them. With 45 eager yogis mere inches apart from each other staring back at me, I desperately reached for my own version of handrails – my loyal, well-loved, broken-in, avocado green Manduka mat.

But today, it was either my mat, or another student in the room. So in the corner my mat went, rolled up and taking its own happy svasana as I prepared to fly solo.

For me, this was a huge first. You see, as yoga teachers, we use several tools to guide our students through practice. One of those tools is our mats. Our mats allow us to demonstrate a pose when we can’t find a way to clearly communicate our next instruction. Without a mat, the next best thing is a few precious empty floorboards between students to demo.

But not today. No mat. No floor space. Just verbal cues. Personality. Humor. And an absolutely delicious opportunity to leave my handrails behind. Talk about growth. I hope every yoga teacher gets the opportunity to toss the mat aside and teach from the heart.

So next time you reach for your handrails, whatever version they come in, consider letting go. And allowing your heart to shine through.

Namaste and see you in class.

Teach the teacher daily lesson 2/20/2013

Troubled with QuestionsDaily lesson from February 20, 2013 (Teach the teacher):

Opened Facebook a couple hours after class to find a surprise post on my timeline: “Great class tonight!!!” Come again?? The post came from a front row regular and fellow instructor who took, what I considered to be, an absolutely abysmal class. Her post was a TOTAL surprise as I felt so completely off my game throughout the grueling evening power hour, I silently willed the clock to run out.  Ten more minutes?? Good Lord, gimme Svasana NOW. My cues felt vague, pacing choppy, connection to the class broken. And yet…

This lovely post reminded me to consider for myself the reminders I consistently share with my students: DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP.

Not every practice is going to feel like an Oscar-worthy performance. In fact, most won’t. Tonight’s felt like a zero-star B-flick headed straight to the cheap cable channel. But after reading the FB post again (OK, I read it 18 times to pick myself up off the floor), I came to the following beautiful conclusions:

  • Not every practice is going to feel the same. Sometimes it will flat out suck. But sucky practices often lead to big breakthroughs – such as the simple realization that it’s OK to suck once in awhile. We all do on our journey toward greatness.
  • Not everyone is judging you. Or even paying attention to you. More likely they’re engulfed in their own mind-business – deciding whether a headstand is a good idea, or a surefire way to tumble into their neighbor on the mat.
  • We’re always tougher on ourselves. In my case teaching tonight, at least one of my students thought my crap class was a red-carpet worthy effort.
  • Yoga doesn’t issue report cards. To leave class with a checklist building in your brain on what went wrong is just plain wrong. You came. You practiced. And that is 100% right.

So thank you dear student, for reminding me that tonight was a GREAT class.

Think upgrade? Nope, I think not

volkswagen-VW-logoOpened my inbox this morning to an urgent message from my neighborhood VW dealership/service center: “HURRY Shannon! We are in desperate need of pre-owned vehicles just like yours!”

Wow. Has my little 2007 manual transmission Beetle suddenly gone retro badass cool? Am I the owner of something special?

Alas, not after reading further. The second sentence revealed (in classic marketing schlock-speak) the real message. Trade in my current Beetle (which they so desperately need!) and, “think upgrade, Shannon!”

Apparently, my not-so-retro badass cool after all Beetle could be traded in for a brand spankin’ shiny newer, better Beetle with absolutely “no initial investment”.

Interesting timing, this email.

We just paid off the ‘full’ investment (aka final car payment) made a year ago on my Beetle purchased after relocating to the east coast.

I just turned 44.

So no, desperate dealer in need of my pre-owned Beetle, I am not interested in jumping back on the monthly car payment bandwagon (or in your case, Volkswagon). And I, like my 2007 Beetle, am used. 44 years of wear and tear, a few dings and dents, and a longer warm up required to hit full speed. But with my used status also comes a hell of a lot of road traveled and wisdom gained.

What is it with the daily media assault to trade in; buy new; think upgrade? We are emailed, texted, screamed at through our living room TV (notice how the commercials are 12 decibels louder than the program you’re watching?), blinded with a massive overuse of exclamation points, neon hues and bold-face fonts urging us to…

Trade in. Buy new. THINK UPGRADE!

If nothing else, my email message this morning got me to thinkin’ about the beauty of owning something used. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Baseball players smack the crap out of their gloves with a ball to break them in. Used.

Ballerinas whack the toes of their pointe shoes hundreds of times to soften the landing. Used.

The first few weeks on my yoga mat feels like a date with the slip and slide. But a healthy accumulation of sweat, love, and commitment has molded it into a work of wonder. Used. And glorious.

My neighborhood VW dealer desperately needs my “pre-owned” Beetle. Pre-owned? BAH! I’m keepin’ it. And it’s magnificantly used, and not pre-owned anytime soon, as long as this 44-year driver can help it.

Go ahead my dear, CUT!

551558_10200604721870730_1273888413_nSometime after the last sip of Pike Place Roast and before crossing the street, I declared to my sweet BF that it had to go. The long blonde locks. The daily battle with monster round brush. Kettlebell-heavy industrial weight blowdryer. Comb-out torture. Wrestle-fest with flat-iron, curling-iron, goopy goo to straighten, curl, tame, only to end up tying it all back in a ponytail after complete resignation. I was DONE with the two-year, “hey baby let’s try growing it out!” hair experiment.

Time for a new formula.

So down the street and into the salon we went, chosen solely by awesome curb appeal and great-lookin’ babes with fab dos flitting in and out. Nice receptionist greeted me, BF settled into a cushy sofa (knowing full well my little ‘consultation’ time frame would likely be the equivalent of two final quarters of the big game – timeouts and commercials included), and my soon-to-be stylist welcomed me over to the consultation area.

“We lookin’ for a little trim and touch-up today?” my sweet young stylist chirped.

“Um, no. I want it gone. Cut short. A totally new look.”

Silence.

I think I totally spooked my stylist, who spent the next twenty minutes suggesting (actually, pleading) we take this process in “baby steps”. You know, an inch and a little layering today, let’s get to know each other a bit, and over the next few appointments we’ll work toward a shorter look.

She was convincing. I left the salon at approximately noon, BF happily ready to go from salon divan to home media room couch, with an appointment to return two hours later. I honestly thought, after our consultation, that I’d be back for a little trim and layering. A sensible approach to my new look, however the hell long that would take (4 appointments later? 5??)

But yours truly is rarely sensible. Within minutes of leaving, I knew that once back in the chair, it would be my turn to be convincing. The tables (or vanities, in the case) had to be turned. I needed to convince my new girl to get out the scissors and CUT.

Bless her heart, with a look of dread at first snip on her face, she did. Cut off a good six inches and gave me a whole new look that I am beyond thrilled with.

Now what to do with that dryer. Think I’ll add it to the BF’s home gym set.

Teach the teacher daily lesson 2/15/2013

925723-skeleton-model-with-a-heart-in-itDaily lesson from February 15, 2013: (Teach the teacher)

A few days ago I read a poem written by a former classmate/now successful published author and poet. She pointed out, quite poetically, that all skeletons bear a giant grin. Obvious enough, I thought. But what’s your point? Me not being the patient enough sort to spend the time required to discern high-brow poetry, the point just didn’t make its way across.

In other words, I didn’t get it.

Until class this morning. It’s one of things I love about yogaland – epiphanies frequently enter the landscape. Yep. Just get your head under your shoulder and arm wrapped into some crazy bind and you never know just what might be revealed.

So in class today, my little epiphany hit me as I paid close attention to my students faces:

A giant grin from one after a verbal cue and adjustment to her downward dog that made a noticeable difference in her experience in the posture.

Several grimaces during a lengthy Warrior III, intended to test their balance, strength, and patience.

That’s when it hit me. Sometimes we grin, sometimes we grimace. But regardless of what our fleshy faces reveal, behind it is a big, wide grin. We are naturally disposed to smile. They say it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown, too.

So if you can’t think of any reason to smile, just picture the gorgeous, bony grin resting just below the surface of your face.

Namaste and see you in class!

Grace – huh?

thCAO9V45PGrace. I hear this a lot in yogi-land.  And yogi-land is  pretty much where I reside these days: practicing, teaching, talking about (to anyone with enough grace to let me carry on for several more hours), proselytizing (i.e. “dude who cut me off, you need to pull over and meditate!!”).

But grace, like many new yoga words creeping into my earshot, is a little elusive. What is it? Unless I pore through my growing library of even more elusive yoga tomes, here’s what initially comes to mind:

Grace. What ya gotta do – with head bowed, eyes squinted shut, fingers interlaced – before being allowed to dig into mama’s awesome lasagne.

Grace. The hot babe whose last name was Kelly and makes every other blonde (me included) resemble a troll.

Grace. The tutu twirler on pointe, sumo wrestler balancing 400 pounds on one thick foot, dapper French waiter with a giant silver platter of escargot floating effortlessly between tables.

I’m onto something, right?

Not so much, yogi girl. Sigh.

I tried flipping through the Bhagavad Gita (holy Jesus, these lessons take some serious concentration. Ants-in-her-pants yogi girl here has a hard time with this. Maybe a little ‘happy’ incense will help the meaning kick in. Kidding – really.)

In all seriousness, though, my morning practice clarified the meaning of grace to me big time. I didn’t need a book, another teacher’s explanation, or Webster’s to spell it out. During practice, I FELT it.

You see, I slept only 4 hours last night (note to self: please quit gulping down Starbucks contractor’s – aka dark roast – brew right before teaching the evening class), and awoke with a stiff left serratus anterior (re-aggravated old injury from too many chatturangas) and wonky right wrist (ditto on re-aggravation, this time from handstand flame outs).

But, dammit, this was my day off from teaching, I didn’t wanna go to anyone’s else’s class, OR take a time out from practice. So into my little home studio I went. And practiced with…

Grace.

Yep. I chose to simply use grace – whatever the hell it meant – as my mantra throughout my 60 minute personal flow, and found my self moving softly, lovingly, slowly, and steered way clear of any movement that would cause pain. I finished feeling relaxed, connected, grateful, and, full of…

Grace.

So if you ask me to define it, I’ll likely be rendered speechless. But some words, I think, are best defined without words.

Kind of a cool message for Valentine’s Day, no?