Badakonasana/ cobbler pose

A Challenging Month

30 Day Blogging Challenge, Personal

Hihi, internet. It’s been a while, but I wanted to leave a little update. You know, stay in touch and stuff. Here are some fun things I’m hoping to spend some time on this month! 

Goal #1: Let go of perfectionism.

I’ve had a lot of trouble in the last few months finding focus and so here I am trying to find it. I’m always concerned with trying to find something “worth” writing about, and making sure I have workable photos, et cetera. In the interest of letting go of this stifling perfectionism, I decided to join a 30-day blog challenge to help keep me accountable and to hopefully become a better writer. And with that kind of pressure hanging over my shoulders, I can’t imagine there being enough time to obsess over putting together a perfect post by which I mean that I want to feel less self-conscious about what I’m putting out. If I stick to it, I can only imagine you’ll be hearing a lot more from me. I should probably also note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your all into something and making it as good as it can be. But I specifically want to practice being more consistent which is why I’m allowing myself this flexibility. 

Goal #2: Become a better writer.

I’m also trying to do this thing where I write a thousand words a day, which was inspired by this article. They can be about anything that I feel like, but I have to do it regardless of how I feel. I’m already kind of feeling the strain of the “regardless of how I feel” caveat because I started one of these sessions while I was in bed yesterday morning and ended up falling back to sleep after 200 words (don’t worry, I finished the other 800 later). But other times, it feels great. The words just come pouring out of me, easy peasey. I’ve found, so far, that it’s much easier to do stream-of-consciousness writing than writing with a purpose. Again, it’s an exercise in accepting imperfection, because there truly is a lot of garbage with maybe a single good line or two sprinkled in. And learning to take the bad with the good. Discipline and overall writing ability are two areas that I’m really passionate about focusing right now. 

Goal #3: Find peace through structure.

Okay. So I’m doing yet ANOTHER challenge. On Instagram. Kino MacGregor and her cohorts are hosting a detox yoga challenge for the month of April, and, thus far, I’ve been pretty dilligent about making sure I’m posting my daily posture photo. It’s a lot to remember to do everyday, but I’ve always been the kind of person who thrives in a structured environment. I love checklists and schedules and calendars and probably most other things you can think of along that vein. And, you know, homework. And school. And school supplies. Paper. New notebooks. Unf.

class full of yogis

Yoga Problems: My First Yoga Class

Personal, Yoga

If you haven’t noticed, keeping the blog updated has been a bit tricky as of late. There have been some fun and new things going on lately, so I thought I would leave you with this quick update.

I got to do something super awesome about a month ago – I taught my first public yoga class! This was a huge and hugely scary accomplishment for me, and I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it will help any aspiring yoga instructors who happen upon this to feel more enthusiastic and better prepared for their own first classes. 

Tackling Stage Fright

One of the first issues that comes to my mind in regard to teaching is the dreaded stage fright. Something I may or may not have mentioned here before (Have I? Ugh, my failing memory…) is that I have a crippling fear of public speaking. This is one of the big reasons why I wanted to do teacher training in the first place. I know that I have things I want to share with people, but this is significantly more difficult when you forget how to speak English while faced with an audience. Even if it is an audience of one! I wanted to become more confident in myself, more comfortable and excited to share, and challenge myself to do something that I could hardly imagine myself capable of. And so I did it!

Preparation

A good teacher training program will help you feel ready to start teaching and your first class will feel like the next natural step. The program that I took was 4 months long, and we spent that time putting together our first classes and teaching it to one another in pairs and small groups. I remember when I first demonstrated Warrior II to a partner, I could see my front hand shaking uncontrollably. I wanted to smack it accompanied by a firm admonishment, “You stop that, hand!” While the jitters hadn’t completely dispersed by the time I taught my presentation class, they had died down to giant butterflies and profuse sweating. But at least the trembling had stopped! I felt ready (as ready as one can feel in that situation) to teach because of all the practice we had done both inside and outside of teacher training, aided by the presence of my amazing support system and the opening of my class with many a deep breath.

Have a Support System

My presentation class was composed of my fellow teacher trainees along with several members of my family and friends. The really cool thing about this particular group was, while I was busy agonizing and massively working myself up about it, one of the big things that helped to calm me down was the knowledge that I would be surrounded by people who love me. These people have been supportive and excited for me throughout the whole YTT journey, and they wanted to see me succeed. This was powerful stuff, for me, when I was truly struggling not to panic.

Pranayama (Breath Work)

The breath work we did at the beginning of class (and working to maintain long, even breaths throughout class) was also extremely helpful in soothing my nerves. Deep breathing is pretty freaking magical. Not only is it calming, taking some time during the day to take some slow and deep breaths offers all of these other amazing benefits you can expect:

  • Improved sleep, energy, and immunity
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved concentration,  memory, attention, and learning efficiency 
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Decreased feelings of depression and anxiety

Mistakes

I am sure I have many a lesson to learn throughout my yoga career, but here are some important ones learned during my first class:

  1. Don’t take your child’s pose while trying to teach it. Yoga mats, I quickly discovered, are a fairly sound absorbent material and will muffle the crap out of your voice.
  2. Things I felt I was doing really slowly went really quickly for students who were new to yoga. Vice versa, when I was teaching these things to more experienced students during teacher training, some of them mentioned that I was holding the poses for a bit too long. I also found that the length of time I was holding poses was difficult to gauge during my presentation class probably due to nerves. You can’t please everyone!
  3. Next time I teach, I might actually try looking at my  students while teaching! There were so many different things to focus on what with remembering my sequence and the cues to go along with it that I had trouble coming out of my head to check out what the class was doing. I know that all of this this will come with practice and I’m not too hung up about it. 

Now that YTT is over, I should be able to update more which I’m looking forward to! I also can’t wait to get teaching and to continue learning and growing this new part of my life.

Hope your holiday season is going swimmingly! See you in 2015! 
xxoo

 

yoga problems: tight hamstrings, annemariedixon.com

Yoga Problems: Tight Hamstrings

Personal, Yoga

In my so-far brief yoga career, there is one large and particular area that keeps coming back to haunt me: my impossibly tight hamstrings. In the few years I’ve been practising, I have noticed very little release and improvement in this region. I have always had very tight hamstrings. I know this because I have a clear memory of being the only child in my ballet class who wept when the time came to do hamstring stretches.

Flash forward to now: I’ve been in yoga teacher training (YTT) since September in which there have been some really wonderful opportunities to focus on improving our personal approach to and alignment in specific postures. It has really been an exercise of checking my ego at the door because as it turns out, my tight hamstrings have turned me into something of a contortionist. By this I mean that without even realizing it, I’ve been cheating my way into many a posture by taking the load off of my hamstrings and dumping them into some other more willing body part.

Our YTT session last Sunday, for instance, consisted of 5 hours of arm balances and inversions. I have a pretty strong upper body, so I’m typically quite happy and comfortable to be upside down and balancing on my hands. I found out on Sunday that while I’m able to “get into” postures like eka pada kundinyasana and astavakrasana (eight-angle pose), all this time I’ve been taking the brunt of the work into anywhere but my hamstrings! And don’t even get me started about how my hamstrings feel in my Warrior I.

I often catch my ego telling me, “Push! Get into that funky arm balance whatever it takes!” But I know that if I want to move forward in certain postures and avoid injury, I have to reign in my ego and focus on my alignment by putting the effort back into the right body parts, namely my hamstrings.

My goal is to spend more time focusing on my hamstrings both in classes, and in designing my personal practice at home. Today, I worked with this hamstring flexibility video, which I found quite challenging. The postures are simple, but my hammies were definitely fired and working. If you’re hamstrings are in need of a stretch, and you want to give this video a try, I would recommend doing some warm up beforehand as the video jumps right into deep stretching.

Do you have a trouble spot in your yoga practice? What are you doing about it? And if there are any hamstring helpers you can recommend, I would love to hear about them!

Until next time! xxoo