Saturday, December 26, 2015

There's no place like home


Around the holidays I become disjointed. My brain is over-stimulated and emotionally I become unmoored. The combination leaves me in a state of "half-way-in," a life space that is not quite satisfying. I'm getting through-- I'm not depressed or upset or despondent, but I'm not all in. The joy and whimsy of the holidays eludes me when I'm living "half-way-in." I would love to find a way through, and ultimately a permanent way out of this holiday state.

Yoga is a practice of finding a joining, a balance, a quiet conversation between the mental/emotional and the physical. It is in my Yoga practice that I am "all in," all the time. It's been twenty-two years since I started practicing Yoga and my greatest accomplishment in my practice is absolutely not physical flexibility.  My true victory from Yoga is that there is a guaranteed place where I can be "all in." I am eternally grateful to have this space, to understand what this fullness and connection means, how it feels.

Yesterday, on Christmas Day, I taught one class. I was happy to do it, thrilled to be there. Even though I wasn't practicing myself, I would be in that familiar, happy space of being really present as a  teacher with the amazing students. There were about twenty Christmas Yoga Warriors in the class and,  as is often the case on holiday classes, they were a focused, hardworking bunch.

At one point as I was guiding them into Savasana, I said, "tap your heels together and let your feet fall open." As I said it, I had the image of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, tapping her heels together reciting the epic line, "There's no place like home" over and over, until she finally arrived back in Kansas.

For me, and I know for many others, Savasana is indeed like finally getting back home after a long journey.  Getting to this state does not follow a prescribed path. I can't remember the moment, or even the month or year that I actually noticed that I was "all in" during Savasana. I do know that every practice I listened to my teachers. I let them guide me into Savasana: "let it go", "take a deep breath", "relax your mind." And eventually the words became my own, the message a part of me. One big hump of the holidays is over, but there's still the new year to get through. I want to be "all-in" for it. I'm getting ready to go practice Yoga now. I can't wait to be in that moment of clicking my heels together. There's no place like home.......

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's too vulnerable

My daughter Lucia is a gifted musician. She plays piano and guitar and she sings (like an angel!). Like any eleven-year-old, she's partial to musicians like Adele and John Legend, and of course Taylor Swift. The other day Lucia was playing an "All of Me" by John Legend, sounding beautiful, soulful, and adorable. I asked her if she'd ever consider writing her own songs to which she replied, "Nope."
"Why not?," I queried.
"Too vulnerable" she said, very matter-of-factly.

Ever since Lucia made that statement, I've been thinking about my vocation, teaching Yoga. In the fifteen years of doing this work, my teaching has indeed evolved. It's evolved because I have taken different teachers classes, been through burn out and back, and because in the last few years, I've exposed myself to many more styles or Yoga, styles in which I am indeed a beginner, lacking skill and proficiency. It is perhaps the lessons in my journey as student that I have developed my greatest strengths as a teacher.

Part of the job of owning a studio is creating a vision for what I want to offer; for articulating and training to what I think makes a good teacher. To me, a good teacher is generous. They give something of themselves. A good teacher takes risks and tries new things. They are vulnerable in their process of learning how to be the best teacher they can be. Adele's declaration of what makes a good song reinforces this idea that you have to go deep, reach into the heart, to create something beautiful.

It's true that Lucia sounds beautiful singing John Legend and Taylor Swift and Adele. And, I think she'd sound even more amazing singing music that she wrote herself. As I continue to work hard to be a good teacher, a strong studio owner, I am keenly aware of how important it is for me to cultivate and nurture vulnerability in myself and my teachers.

For me, the vulnerability comes in that moment when I decide to step out of my comfort zone and introduce something new in class. Most students probably don't even see it happening. I'm still teaching the same posture, holding it about the same length of time. But I know it's happening. It's scary. It's uncomfortable. I'm vulnerable. I'm learning from each trial, and if I fail, it's okay. It's all  part of the bigger process to create something beautiful.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On the road again.

Last weekend four of my good friends and I went to Portland for the weekend. We left the kids and the spouses behind, took the mini-van on the road, and shacked up in a rented town house overlooking the 405. It was brilliant in a million ways.

We travelled as a pack. We ate together, slept together, shopped together, and on the road home Sunday night in the minivan, we sang together. All weekend, we'd been reveling in the lightness we felt being on our own in Portland. At one point during dinner on Friday night, I became disoriented (the pre-dinner 'brownie' might have played into this) about what era of our lives we were in. I momentarily felt like I was back to my twenties when going out to dinner with a gaggle of girl friends was commonplace.

With a van full of Christmas presents and some personal indulgences for ourselves, we hit the road north back to Seattle on Sunday afternoon. We stopped at an incredible Mexican restaurant in Centralia to mark our halfway point, none of us fully ready to return to "normal." Once we were back on I-5, Jenna, the owner of the minivan, started playing DJ. We heard Sade, Simon & Garfunkel, Tori Amos, and Etta James among others. Eventually we started singing our own tunes-- The Eagles, Bette Middler, John Denver.

From the darkness of our minivan, we belted out songs we all knew. We harmonized. We sang back up. It was the perfect finale to a weekend of debauched bliss. There was so much goodness in the van, so much happy energy.  It is a moment I want to remember always.

The next morning, Monday, I taught class at 930am. I can't say I was thrilled to be back from my weekend escape, but I was happily surprised, as I almost always am, to be back teaching.  It was many usual practitioners, people I know well and love; all hard workers, focused Yogis. During Pranayama breathing, watching the students in the room, I had this wonderful reminiscence of my friends singing harmony in the minivan the night before. All of the different bodies, breathing separately but also together. It made me so happy to be simultaneously experiencing last night's memory and the present moment's reality.

Yoga is a big part of my life. It's my home, my away, my safe and my scary. My everyday practice gives me the grounding I need to move through the world sanely, and sometimes I have a class that is very, very hard, uncomfortable, unmooring.  I still practice though because I know that through my practice I'll find my way home.  Lately I've been expanding my practice-- still Bikram but also Vinyasa and Yin. It's refreshing and disorienting in all the best ways. The new practice energizes my old practice; it breathes new and different energy into it.

My relationship with my friends is similar. With each of them I've had countless moments of complete elation as well as periods of hard times and struggle. The everyday coordination of playdates, carpools, parenting advice is a critical structure in my life, but getting away from all of that is important too. Our trip to Portland, without the parameters that normally define us, gave us each a way to see each other differently, open ourselves up to new experiences, and sing our hearts out.