“Just be yourself.” Ok, but how?

JBYed-in-the-face“Just be yourself.” Sounds good. If only it were that simple. In every career I’ve held – especially my current one as a yoga teacher – well-meaning colleagues and mentors have reminded me to be myself. And I’ve doled out the advice too – encouraging newer teachers to be themselves. But how?

It feels so good to hear it. To say it. Sort of like a permission slip to stop planning everything out and have fun in whatever task is at hand. Or to comfort a nervous pal who’s been pacing in circles over their first big gig.

But honestly we need a part two. A how-to. The mentors in my life who have followed up a just be yourself with a how-to are the ones who’ve helped me the most. A vice president of marketing I once worked under followed up the just be yourself advice with suggesting I rewrite an entire speech I had drafted into short bullet points I could refer to instead of looking down and reading a long-winded narrative she knew no one would pay attention to after 30 seconds. That advice allowed me to make eye contact with the attendees, sprinkle in anecdotes that felt appropriate in the moment, and tap into the energy of the room. It allowed me to be myself.

A yoga mentor patiently got on her mat and spent an hour moving to my words, listening for when I wasn’t being myself. In addition to encouraging me to be myself, she stopped me several times within the sequence and called me out when it sounded scripted or like something I would never say in normal conversation. “Find another way to say it, Shannon…” And I did. On the spot. And it allowed me to be myself.

I’ve been teaching consistently for almost two years, and work my ass-ana off to teach in a way that is authentic to me, but it’s tough. All the training we do is a double-edged sword, really. We gain critical alignment skills, pacing techniques and inspiration, but too much of that can lead even the most confident teachers into the trap of mimicking the voices of others without finding their own.

So next time I’m tempted to say just be yourself, I’ll follow it up with a how-to.

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The Wisdom of Our Bodies By Anastasia Nevin

I love this post. Throughout past careers I’ve been reminded to listen first before speaking, but it has always been in the context of listening to others. This post underscores the wisdom in listening to ourselves – to what makes our hearts sing. I love this studio too – creative flows, fabulous playlists and loving support from caring teachers make it a must-visit every time I’m in Manhattan.

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Anastasia on a beach
Close your eyes and let a big exhale come out your mouth. As you take a moment to go inside, reflect on a soul moment – a moment in your recent life that has somehow touched you… a moment in which you felt a deep connection to something greater than yourself… a moment when you tasted life’s sacredness.

For me, these moments often come in the most mysterious and unexpected ways: a gypsy melody that transports me to my childhood, tears from laughing so hard with a dear friend. These fleeting experiences invite me to come back to my Self, to God, to the Divine part of me that is separate from my Ego-mind.

On my own healing journey, and in my current work as a nutritionist and yoga teacher with people who struggle with eating and body image issues, I have learned that true healing happens when we strengthen…

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Pay attention to the message

keep-calm-carry-onYou know that feeling when some big life reminder hits you in myriad ways? It hit me last week in New York City: Keep Calm and Carry On.

It hit me first on the forearm of a sophisticated-looking fella with an accent (francais, peut-etre?), who spotted me fumbling with my iPhone subway app trying to figure out whether I needed to transfer from an express to a local. I noticed the tattooed script on his arm as he directed me to stay put. “No need to change trains madam, this one will get you where you need to go.”

Thelaundry second message stared back at me in the form of a large brick building mural across the street from a laundromat in Hell’s Kitchen. I was sweltering on a bench near a wall of hot, coin-operated washers and dryers in the non-air conditioned room counting the minutes left on my machine. Willing my load of sweaty yoga clothes to hurry up and finish already so I could make it to tomorrow’s class without dying in here first. But a glance beyond the door across the street sent a powerful message: Keep Calm and Carry On.

My self-navigated trek from Manhattan to Brooklyn on a workday morning was equal parts adventure and chaos (woo hoo! I didn’t f*** up the transfer from the A to L)! But being sandwiched between bodies in a metal cylinder Lord knows how many feet below ground wasn’t my idea of quiet bliss either. That’s when the message hit me a third time. A young woman sat calm and still with a small smile on her face as she read down a few paragraphs of her novel. In between the pages rested a book mark in large red font reading: Keep Calm and Carry On.

That’s three times in 24 hours I received this message. Coincidence or not, I paid attention. And as I settle back into my corner of Philaburbia after a stimulating week in the city, I am reminded to keep calm and carry on no matter what circumstances arise.