Thursday, October 18, 2012

Find some stillness in your stillness

On Tuesday, I took Katy's 6am class. For those of you who don't know Katy, she is lovely. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of her. She is authentic, positive, nurturing, and a damn good yoga teacher. Katy's strengths as a teacher are similar to her strengths as a person. She's authentic, positive, and nurturing. At 6am, this is especially important. To go from deep sleep to Bikram Yoga is not an easy process.

On Tuesday, the class was hot, humid, and full of bodies, so there was the usual intensity you'd expect in a Bikram class. Katy is statuesque and incredibly strong. She's also graceful, and really at home in her body. This strength and confidence gives her the ability to hold the energy of an intense class. She's unapologetic about the toughness of Bikram practice, but also sends the message of acceptance. Like many of us teachers, she makes sure to convey the message, "Be where you are. Every day your body is different."

During the first Savasana after the standing series, Katy was helping us to relax our bodies. She threw out a few instructions, "relax your muscles", "be still in your body." And then she said, "Be still in your stillness", and then chuckled, "if that makes any sense."

It was only later that day when I was teaching a big group of sweaty, intense students, trying to be confident, clear and strong enough to hold the energy in the room, that I had a flash of those words in my mind, "Be still in your stillness." That's so good. As a student, it is relatively easy (some days more than others) to follow the teacher's instructions to keep our bodies still. But most of us know that there is an entirely different ball game going on in the mind. The body is still and the mind is at Wild Waves with a forty ouncer. --- "I have a drip of sweat about to drip into my ear." "The woman next to me must have had a ton of garlic last night." "I wonder who left those bobby pins on the floor next to my mat." "Would it be okay if I served red wine with salmon?" Stillness? What stillness?

It's been a long time since I've been teaching and practicing and it's a thrill when I hear something that helps me in both realms. I relate to simple instructions. "Be still in your stillness" is so dang clear. But like different teachers, sometimes different words help get a message across. The body still. The mind still. Duh!!!! It's like washing the car and cleaning the inside. So much better. So much more complete. Thanks for the clarification Katy.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Warm 106.9

Every once in a while when I'm teaching yoga, the thermometer will say 106.9. This usually means it's time to turn down the heat. It also means I start thinking about soft hits. I know some of you reading this are familiar with Delilah. You know the theme song-- "Love someone tonight."

This fall has been exceptionally busy for me. Work, volunteering at Lucia's school, birthdays, social engagements. My coffee intake in September reached it's highest point since college. Last Thursday, after I spontaneously started sweating and felt like I was on the verge of cardiac arrest, I decided I was definitely switching to decaf. Despite my regular yoga practice (thank god for that), I was clearly not managing my anxiety.

I used to listen to WARM 106.9 all the time. For the last few years I've been pretty unconsciously tuned into KUOW. But recently, something moved me to switch back---and it wasn't a pledge drive. After my near heart attack, I was driving on Rainier Avenue South towards downtown. KUOW was on and the commentator was talking about the upcoming elections. It was stressing me OUT! I happened to be driving to the first of two meetings that day, both of which were going to involve confrontation. I suck at confrontation, and I didn't need more stress to prepare me for it.

I had a moment of clarity, "I don't have to listen to this shit!" I shimmied my dial up to 106.9 and heard Celine Dion. Now I would probably not buy the iTunes single of The Power of Love, but in that moment, it was so simple, so easy, so soft. I loved it. Next came Genie in a Bottle (Christina Aquilera). " oooh oooh.... my body's sayin' let's go."

It was one of those unprecedentedly glorious sunny days in Seattle. Over the course of my 35 minute drive, I heard Cyndie Lauper, Stevie Nicks, John Mayer. I sang my heart out."Your true colors, true colors, are beautiful like a rainbow...." My sunroof was open, my windows were down. I just needed some back up singers to complete my harmonies and a new outfit. I felt so happy, I didn't even mind the Sleep Country commercials.

It was such a small thing, making the decision to change my radio station. But the results were enormous. I'm still tuned into 106.9, not all the time, but a lot. Whenever I find myself wanting to check my email while I'm driving, I know I'm simmering over, stepping out of balance. "Crank those soft hits Culberg," I tell myself. Last week I cleaned my house with 106.9 on and I didn't stop to check my phone for two hours!

You might hate 106.9 (many people do, especially in December when it's all Christmas songs all month long), but there is something out there that helps you dial down the stress. It's too easy to get into a pattern of overdrive. We all have obligations, responsibilities, but life shouldn't be without lightness. I feel grateful to have yoga as a constant in my life, a tool for releasing stress, but sometimes I need more. I need James Taylor, Lionel Richie, Enya, Mariah Carey, Fleetwood Mac......