Teach the teacher daily lesson 4/30/2013

2012-08-17 16.16.40Daily lesson from April 30, 2013 (Teach the teacher): It’s only Tuesday, and so far this week two students have sent me a clear message: “Adjust me already!”

What’s really interesting to me is that neither yogis are newbies. More like potential Yoga Journal cover models. So my initial thought was, what the heck am I gonna adjust? Your pose looks awesome already.

But here’s my lesson (and I learned this in my training, but somehow circumvented around it): adjusting is not just correcting a pose. It’s also helping an advanced yogi move deeper into a pose to explore their ‘edge’. (*side note: we use the word ‘edge’ a lot in Yogaland – it basically means the point where you’ve gone as far as you can go without completely freaking out or hurting yourself. And many of us still struggle to find it – we either wimp out and avoid it, or blow past it and pay handsomely in the next several practices.)

Adjusting the rock stars takes a shitload of confidence for a newbie teacher like me. I can project all the way to kingdom come (thanks to past public speaking stints and broadcast journalism education), sequence an intelligent flow, and cue pretty well, but adjusting is a fine art that does not come naturally for me. I’m getting there, applying my palms to poses I see in the room that clearly need realignment, but shifting a beautifully expressed pose into a deeper, edgier place is serious business, and one that I refuse to take lightly.

So bear with me yogis, I’m working on it. And if you happen to be in my class, and I waltz right past you, just give me a little “over here, Shannon!” and I’ll do my best to get you closer toward your fabulous edge.


Your Body is a Miracle

band-larger-lgSo I visited “Freshly Pressed” (a weekly selection of stop what yer doin’ and READ items selected by the awesome WordPress crew) and stopped what I was doin’ to gain some truly valuable insight from a new mama coming to terms with her changing body.

I don’t have kiddos. Haven’t experienced a whole lotta fluctuation in my own body since puberty. I’m tall, lean, and sometimes really lean when I lay off the animal cookies, sometimes fleshier when I regularly dip my hand in the bucket for a fistful of the carb-heavy critters. But I rarely vary beyond one size, unless a tumble-high GE dryer is involved.

But this post brought tears to my eyes. It made me mourn for all the negative hours I’ve spent lamenting this amazing body that has stood by me and enabled me to live fully for 44 years and counting. Life changes. Bodies change. And when the body is called upon to create a human being, or go to combat against an illness or disease, it takes on a new shape. A new shape our twisted, ‘gotta lose the baby weight in 48 hours’ obsessed society refuses to embrace. I know this fundamentally, and yet, even now, I sometimes get tempted to use exercise as a tool for burning off indulgences (hmm – a ten mile run should cancel out that fistful of animal cookies). Don’t do this! Exercise should be practiced out of pure joy and love, never fear or remorse.

So, in the spirit of appreciating our changing bodies, give your fleshy parts a loving squeeze and enjoy this wonderful post: Metamorphosis (Or: Apparently My Body is Missing ?!)

How a cigarette butt made me think of Earth Day

Eearthdayarth Day was two days ago. I think… Alas, I never really paid much attention to it, and frankly, didn’t get the hype. We’re here. On earth. Isn’t every day Earth Day?

But things have changed now that I’m teaching and living yoga. I get it. I’m more in the present, and rather than directing 95% of my attention to a future event (damn, gotta go to the dentist on Thursday) or past mistake (did I really spend 200 bucks on a pair of green patent leather Kate Spade toe jammers?), I’m noticing what’s happening right before me. At least most of the time. And on Earth Day, I noticed something that made me want to love up the Earth like never before. It happened while driving to yoga class on a gorgeous sunny day. A cute young chick in a white convertible, long brunette locks flowing, Ray-bans rocking, flung a lit cigarette out on the road we were sharing. On Earth Day. My head started spinning:

  • Who’s gonna pick that nasty stub up?
  • It’s still lit. What if it rolls off the road and onto the grass? Highway green median turned 4-alarm fire??
  • What else have you done to abuse the Earth today, Missy? Swigged a Styrofoam cuppa Joe and flung it out the other window? Hurled your ten-year old iMac in the trash? Left all the lights on?

Now yours truly is hardly a model of planet-saving practices, but I am growing more aware. Aware of when I forget to grab the reusable bags in my trunk midway toward the grocery entrance (go on back, Shannon, grab the bags and leave the hideous mountain of plastic sacks well alone). Aware of when I can combine my errands instead of driving all over hell and gone – especially living in the burbs where folks drive way too damn much – all too evident by the overabundance of bumper stickers and bellies brushing the steering wheel. Aware that my toes are much happier barefoot on a yoga mat than jammed in a pair of ridiculous designer kicks. Aware that vinegar smells much nicer than the alternative chemical-laden cleaners.

Thank you yoga for giving me more compassion toward this Earth we share. For helping me notice those who don’t. And to the Missy who flung the cigarette butt: you’re young, but hopefully you’ll find your connection to the planet soon enough, and respect that you have a responsibility to protect it.

Front page story: China earthquake

130421062549-04-china-earthquake-0421-horizontal-galleryToday’s perspective (Front page story: A yogi’s perspective) on this tragic story brings me to the literal meaning of yoga, which is to ‘yoke’, or ‘unite’. After scrolling through a long list of top stories on Google News, I eventually came to this one, ‘China earthquake shears off mountainsides, kills 186’. Frankly, I was shocked at how much mouse time my finger had to endure to finally land on it.

In a nutshell: 186 dead (and counting), 8,200 (and counting) filling hospitals after a massive earthquake in the Sichuan province of China. My first thought is, why the hell is this story at the bottom of the pile??? Um, this is BIG news. And ranks a little higher than Google News ‘Most popular stories’ sidebar with the following headlines:

  • ‘Celeb Pix: Drew Barrymore blankets herself for GLAAD Media Awards’
  • ‘Shots fired during pot holiday…’
  • ‘Boston bombing suspects planned more attacks’

A yogi’s perspective: Now let’s be clear. I am not dismissing the newsworthiness of any of the above stories.

  • Miss Drew – good for you! You go on ahead and rock that “shapeless, quilted dress” while all the other divas push the winning envelope by flashing a little boob so they too might just get a mention in Google’s ‘most popular’ story scroll.
  • Denver hemp revelers can toke on up legally now, but it appears a few armed and dangerous gun-wielders had another, deadlier, interpretation of a smoke-out. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt.
  • The Boston bombings are still raw in our hearts (read my perspective here: It Coulda Been Me), and I, as many of you, will continue to read the news in a feeble attempt to try and understand (but likely never will) just how on earth this happened.

But China suffered too. Big time. And this is BIG news. And why I couldn’t find this story amidst the other headlines underscores what yoga seeks to eradicate – this polarization between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The victims in China might not look like you. Might not live like you, speak the same language as you, eat the same cereal as you. But guess what. They are just like you. They are your brothers and your sisters. They have families. They have hopes. They have fears. And they are suffering from a monster natural disaster that demands our attention. So stop. Read. Empathize. And send your loving thoughts to the victims in China.

It Coulda Been Me

finishing areaThis is what a runner’s finishing area is supposed to look like. Joy. Relief. Smiles. Embraces. This is exactly what I had the privilege of experiencing three years ago after completing the Portland Marathon. Three hours and 35 minutes (with a torn calve muscle I later discovered) spent pounding the pavement in a non-stop downpour made all worthwhile after seeing my family dance with joy behind the barricades enveloping us runners down the final stretch.

Fast forward to yesterday. Holy shit. The horrendous atrocities awaiting the Boston finishers, their families, friends, supporters, volunteers, hit as close to home as any heinous attack possibly could. You see, I qualified for Boston. Registered. Had a bib and info packet. No, it wouldn’t have been this year (I qualified to run the 2011 race, and never did due to a calve that refused to heal in time). But my imagination ran wild with yesterday’s news.

I imagined my leg being blown off. My papa, boyfriend, niece, all those who would have gladly dropped everything in their lives to follow me there, hitting the pavement in a heap of blood.

We see tragic events on the news on almost daily. But when we see one that could have easily involved ‘us’, it takes on an entirely new meaning. It’s no longer about ‘them’. 

If anything can come of this tragic event for me, it’s to remember that I am ‘them’. And this coulda been ‘me’. And to send endless prayers of love, healing, and hope for all those affected by acts of violence. 

finish line


Front page story: a yogi’s perspective


photo credit: FBI

I’ve got a new category of posts for you, dear yogis. “Front page story: a yogi’s perspective”. This idea came about for myriad reasons, but here are my top three:

  1. Since I practice yoga, teach yoga, prattle on about yoga to anyone willing to stay within earshot, dream about yoga, and create class sequences in my head when not otherwise occupied, I naturally think in yogic terms as I peruse my daily WSJ, Huffington Post online, Time magazine, Google news search and other endless sources of news and scuttlebutt.
  2. I firmly believe if at least one character in every story I read took 10 minutes a day to consciously breathe, stand on their head, or repeat the mantra “I will be kind”, then the story in front of me would undoubtedly have a happier ending.
  3. I’m typically multitasking whilst reading, sitting comfortably in upavista for longer stories, uncomfortably in half lotus for speed reads. The yoga just naturally creeps its way into my perspective on the big news of the day.

So let’s begin. Today’s headline, compliments of Jean Eaglesham, Reed Albergotti, and Hannah Karp of the WSJ: Secret Recordings, Cash in Insider Sting

In a Nutshell: KPMG LLP partner (ahem, former partner since the FBI caught up with him) Scott London and LA jewelry business owner/tee time buddy at the country club pal Bryan Shaw are in hot water with the SEC and FBI for swapping insider trading secrets, wads of greenbacks and a Rolex or two. Shady stuff, and both are headed to court with their tails between their legs.

This yogi’s take on it: Fellas, you’re breakin’ the rules! And the fact that 3 reporters were assigned to this story underscores the magnitude – clearly there’s more at stake than a little quid pro quo. If Mr. London and Mr. Shaw had taken a few moments to read up on the the first limb of Patanjali’s 8-limbed yogic path, the yamas (behavioral/ethical restraints), they’d have recognized that they were breakin’ a whole lot more than a few corporate no no’s. They pretty much busted every one of the following:

  • Ahimsa. Non-harming. They hurt a lot of folks. Their families, employers and employees, clients, honest participants in the stock market, to name a few.
  • Satya. Truthful living. Time to meditate and pray, Mr. London and Mr. Shaw. What is your truth? To amass a large vault of jewels and an ‘I’m the shit’ ego? Or to live amongst the rest of us mortals and serve. Use your education and business acumen to do something higher than steal and lie.
  • Asteya. Non-stealing. I’m 100% in favor of hard-working, honest workers living the high life and enjoying the fruits of their efforts. Just earn it, please. Don’t steal on insider information that isn’t yours to share and benefit from.
  • Brahmacharya. Abstinence. We all have the occasional urge to act uncontrollably. But the good man contains it.
  • Aparigraha. Non-grasping, non-covetousness, letting go of desires. Letting go of the desire to acquire material, expendable things to maintain a superficial image can only result in a happier, more relaxed human being.

So how’s that for a start? I’ll prattle on about my yogic take on stories to come. And sadly, scuttlebutt to come too, as there is an endless supply churning the web and print rolls.