Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Beauty of Human Variation




I come from a tradition of Bikram Yoga, a practice that is very regimented, rigorous, and black and white. For many years, for myriad reasons, this practice worked well for me. As I've grown older and found myself wandering into the mysterious waters of menopause, my physical flexibility has lessened, but my mental flexibility has flourished. Over the past few years, my changing flexibilities have led me to broaden my yoga practice.

As the owner of a yoga studio, I am in the unique and thrilling position of creating a vision. In the fifteen years that I've been doing this work, I've learned a lot. For example, I know that it takes a village to run a business. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who share and support the vision of The SweatBox. As The SweatBox visionary, I am excited to share my expanded view, one that acknowledges all yoga as good yoga and all bodies as perfect bodies.

Something that's become crystal clear to me as I've expanded my personal yoga practice and teaching knowledge over the years, is how significant human variation is and how important it is to honor these differences. There is no one "right" human. We are all different and perfect in our own way. As a yoga teacher and student, I have found that expanding my view of "the right way" to practice yoga has been profoundly liberating. I want to share that with my community.

Bikram Yoga everyday is great for many bodies, but it's not great for ALL bodies. The Pranayama that we do in Bikram, for example is an amazing exercise that develops lung capacity, efficiency, and oxygen flow in the body. The repetition of postures in Bikram Yoga can, for many of us, create an unparalleled moving meditation that leads to significant stress reduction.

Vinyasa Yoga everyday is wonderful if you have the strength and agility. The unexpected nature of the flow offered by the teacher, the new and different challenges that come with every unique class help us stay creative and open-minded. But a daily Vinyasa Yoga practice is also not the magic bullet for all bodies.

A Bikram Yoga practice is a therapeutic, healing practice to be sure. Adding Vinyasa and Yin Yoga (which are also healing and therapeutic) into a regular yoga practice, can facilitate create a greater sense of physical and mental balance in one’s life. Many Vinyasa students who have been staunchly Vinyasa-based will find themselves surprised and delighted by how a regular practice of Bikram provides healing and respite for their tender shoulders and wrists.  

Yin Yoga is the counter, the balance for both Bikram and Vinyasa practitioners that brings a greater state of physical, mental and emotional equanimity to all bodies. This technologically turned-on world we live in is fast-paced and often relentless. Yin gives us all an opportunity to slow down, to step off the moving walkway.

Each of our skeletons, the placement of our organs, the hormones that course through our bodies, are individual and unique. As such, we need to experience a variety of yoga options to understand what serves us. This will lead to a greater understanding of who we are and what we need. It might be one kind of yoga one day and another kind another day. It might be practicing one style more, one style less. It might mean adding Qi Gong. It might be practicing at a different time of day or making subtle modifications to what you've been doing the same way for decades. Only by trying new things can we know what best serves us and helps us grow.

I believe a daily yoga practice is important—whether it is a Sunday morning home practice of Yin with your partner combined with six days a week of more Yang yoga at your favorite studio or yoga in the woods with your family every morning with a periodic visit to the studio. It doesn’t matter what yoga you do, it’s that you do it. In expanding my own vision of what yoga is good yoga, I have been able to commit more deeply to my own yoga practice. I invite you to do the same. Try something you haven’t tried. Challenge your body and your mind in new ways. Be a beginner again. Practice some good yoga everyday.



Sunday, August 28, 2016

Navigation--Old School

This past week I've been in Vancouver, BC for a Yin Yoga training. It's the first time in a long time that I've been by myself for more than a day or two.  It's been luxurious and challenging at the same time. Most people think I am pretty outgoing, and I am, but I'm also a person who needs a lot of alone time and I'm very shy in new situations.

This week by myself has given me a lot of alone time that I need (and don't get enough of on a daily basis.) But it has also challenged me because my shy, introverted self has been in unfamiliar surroundings with no partner, friend, or family to bolster me into bravery. To make matters worse, I've been without cellular service so I haven't been able to use my phone as a social prop or for navigation in a new city.

I've eaten all of my meals alone, asked for directions to every place I've wanted to go, alone, studied alone, woken up alone, gone to sleep alone. Now, at the end of this week I am done with alone. Yesterday, I took a walk, alone. I am notoriously horrible with directions so I definitely geared myself up for this independent adventure. My daughter regularly asks if we are lost, even when Siri is telling me which left or right to make. On this walk, in a new city, alone, I had no Siri, no navigation, no map. Just me.

As I walked, I noted where the water was so I could use it as frame of reference. I paid attention to different buildings, pieces of art, notable gardens. I had no phone, no clock, so I just walked until I had to pee really badly and then I turned around. Being without the familiar crutch of my phone to tell me where to go or my partner to reassure me that we weren't getting lost, made me use my own senses more- to notice where I was walking visually, to feel what direction made sense in my own body.

The whole experience of being alone and fending for myself made me realize that that way of life isn't sustainable for me. I am not an island. I like to be alone sometimes but I definitely don't want to exist permanently in that state. It also gave me an opportunity to push myself in ways that shed light on my own strengths and abilities which so often lie dormant.

Another great part about this extended alone time is how excited I am to go home. I still have to get to the airport, find my gate, eat a few more meals--alone. But then I get to go home to my family and friends and bed and porch and cell service and face lotion. There's no place like home.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tennis Anyone?


Last weekend I took my daughter Lucia (now eleven) out to play tennis. She's been asking to learn for a while and we finally had a moment in the middle of an unseasonably hot, sunny Seattle day. I'm not a great tennis player; I took lessons as a kid and went to a few camps; I'm not good but I can play.  Lucia and I share the unfortunate trait of being stubborn, and we're both kind of know-it-alls. So when we got out to the court and I began giving Lucia some tips about grip, follow through, and body placement, it did not go smoothly.

I got a lot of eye rolls, 'yeah, yeah, yeahs" and stomping to the back of the court. It was hot and Lucia was scheduled to babysit so we only played for about 40 minutes. It was more than enough for both of us. Lucia wasn't half bad at tennis even though she acted as if she hated every moment. As we left the courts in search of a quick 7-11 Slurpee before her babysitting job, Lucia said, "Mom, you're a good teacher."

As is often the case when I am parenting, I was surprised (and secretly delighted) to hear Lucia's assessment of the tennis experience.  It happens all the time when I think I am teaching my child a lesson and she is simultaneously teaching me something else. 'Right, Lucia, I am a teacher," I realized as she complimented me. It's what I do every day. It's what I love to do, what gives me energy and creativity and happiness. I forget sometimes, because I love it so much, that the person (or people) on the other side of my voice have a different experience. They may not love every moment. They might feel irritated or frustrated or pushed somewhere they don't feel like going in the moment.

But when I teach, just like when I parent, I am motivated by love. I love to share what I know and I love to see people learn and grow and challenge themselves. I love to encourage and nurture and support the growth process.  And I love to be a student as well--to hear what the teacher wants to share, to wonder how s/he fine tuned the idea or the technique. It's an honor to be in the role of teacher and a gift to be a lifelong student. If I am your teacher, this is a gentle reminder that I do it all from a place of love. If you are my teacher, please know that I love every minute.