Last year in January, I wrote a similarly titled post called 13 reasons this is your yoga year. A whole year or more ago, I was 4 months fresh off yoga teacher training in Spain. One town, one flat, one village, and one house later, I have experienced some adjustments to my personal approach as a teacher and yoga student. Some fundamentals remain, but others have vanished or morphed. I have had the pleasure of meeting a new crop of students in Nassington , and in today’s Sunday class, just the second one we’ve held at Nassington Village Hall, there were a few breakthroughs. Not on my end- but a student. It’s all about my students anyway, I’m just a warm body and conduit for a yogic practice, seeing people smile, seek peace, learn new things, and connecting with their humanity is what inspires me to show up. Further to inspiration, after today’s class, my fingers were itching to get at the keyboard and see what clicked out into this blog space. 14 more reasons this is YOUR yoga year, not mine.
14. Prepare for landing. We’ve all experienced funny metaphors and expressions that yoga teachers use to help students align their body and mind. Sometime this past year, I heard a teacher say, “Ground yourself like a plane coming into the run way.” There’s a lot to be read between the lines in this one. To me, it’s a metaphor for students to drop down to an earthly level, zero in on one task, and be prepared to stay strong along a possibly bumpy ride when things may get uncomfortable.
13. Awakening from the illusion that being busy is more difficult than standing still. Today a student said, “I’m always going from here to there. It’s difficult to just be still.” Calmly stepping away from the distractions of a busy mindset and facing what stirs within a deeper consciousness is risky business to some. I know this experience in class today was emotional for some. Waking up can expose you to layers of embedded ‘stuff’ you will have to work through, because there’s no hiding in activity of the outside world while on a yoga mat. It’s okay.
12. Your breath as a tool. A quick view of this yoga breathing for beginners gives a nice, simplistic diagram and explanation for the erect posture maintained in breathing at the beginning of classes as taught with Soul Flow Vinyasa Yoga and many other classes you’ll attend. It says to not puff the stomach out, but to extend the inner walls of the abdomen, which is the next step beyond the simplified way of what I teach as gently expanding the belly and trunk like a balloon on inhales. Experiment with your breathy tool – it’s a gift to you!
11. A good friend named “Mat”. What’s your yoga mat’s name (find out here)? Me and Captain Stinky Toes Partner have been through a lot together. Your mat is supportive, a faithful companion in your spiritual and physical journey. A safe haven for approaching # 14. An investment beyond monetary consideration.
10. In 2013’s list, I stated ‘you can die at the end of each class’ and expanded on savasana. Savasana is something I like to do even without a full on 60 to 90 minute yoga practice. I practice deep rest right before falling asleep at night. There’s nothing like consciously soothing your muscles and using the control of the mind’s switch to the nervous system to say, “Lights out!” Not all yoga classes call for a savasana, if you’re in a very cold environment or you want to energy up or are crunched for time, as a matter of fact, you can cover yourself with a blanket or wear socks to keep the body’s temperature even. A quick read through a sports medicine approach to not over training shares some wisdom with why it’s good to shut down or rest after physical exertion.
9. Yoga paired with other activities you like. Are you a wine drinker? Do you mellow out to acoustic music? Are you a furbaby mummy or daddy? A busy mother or caregiver of a family member? Do you love hiking or long walks on a beach? Try pairing yoga with things you do socially or to unwind. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
8. Weekend blitz. I’ve done a few of these. Find out if your local studio offers unlimited classes for a 7-10 day period at a really decent price. Or go to a new city with some friends, rent a hotel room, find some new restaurants, try out new teachers and classes, and maybe nab a facial or massage in the meantime. Put a yogic spin on a girly weekend. GUYS- do whatever it is you like doing and get your yoga on to! Speak to whichever prospective studio and see what pricing they can offer as a blitz package. Teachers- see if you can get a discount for arranging to bring in business to the studio with some of your own students.
7. Mantra. I’ve got good feedback on adding this into the meditation and breathing element at the beginning of my classes. What’s a mantra? What’s YOUR mantra? Easily defined, a mantra is a word or phrase repeated to aid in concentration and manifesting some idea. Sitting quietly and comfortably, begin to inhale and exhale through your nostrils. On the in breath, say one part of a phrase [maybe “I am strong] and out breath you’d add, “And capable.” Another one that has gotten good response from students is “Peace [in breath] and “I am” [out breath]. It’s fun and can be very personal. Experiment for the results you’re looking for.
6. Let someone else do the talking. You spend your whole day on the phone, with kids or coworkers, or being a social media zombie, and the outgoing energy needs a respite. I have heard more than one student say, “It’s nice to switch off and just go with the flow of what the teacher instructs.” You are still responsible for your safety and your yoga (attempting to unify your mind, breath, and body) but there is something to be said for respecting and trusting enough in your teacher’s ability to lead you through the practice. A teacher may offer variations on a posture to account for differing abilities- so you need to be present. This loops back to number 14. Prepare for landing! But, the structure of the class has largely been taken care of and, just for showing up to the mat, the practice will reward you.
5. Exposure to a philosophy, belief system, and scientific approach to physical fitness that may be different than how you’ve been brought up to believe or feel comfortable with- can you handle the ideas and still walk your own truth, without feeling like it’s a threat to your own spirituality? If you’re comfortable with new (well, what may be new to YOU and 5,000 years in the making for others) and if you’re curious, yoga offers a rich history, many branches of the practice, philosophical ideas, and ways of looking at human physiology on many levels. The biggest struggle I see students face is A) their disappointment and dejection when their first few classes are ‘not what they had in mind’ or B) they are so entrenched in a certain foundation of beliefs that alarm bells ring because of something new. Simply put, yoga is not what you think it is, nor what I even perceive it to be. You have to just let it happen, and that is not okay with some people.
4. I am stealing this from 2013’s # 5. It states, “Year round physical and mental fitness. Yoga does not have to be done in a studio. Armed with a mat, comfy clothes and a water bottle you can take your practice on the road with you. Traditionally, yogis in India would withdraw from the world and travel around on their journeys. No fancy equipment, just your body and peace of mind, and you’ve done it.” To expand, yoga can travel with you. I bought a light mat that most airlines, even internationally, will allow me to use as carry on luggage. It’s corny, but your ‘diplo-mat’ will strike up conversations and be a visual icon of your hobby, passion, lifestyle etc, you may even unknowingly inspire others or meet a new friend! I had a great chat with the airline security people at a Grand Rapids airport, and it all started by them seeing my mat and asking what it was for.
3. What is ‘Namaste’? Some teachers say it at beginning of class, or the end. You don’t need to say anything! But it’s a warm way of acknowledging the presence of others.
2. Smile. It’s easy. Starts with lifting the corner of your lips. Yoga induces smiles. And you deserve to smile in 2014.
1. The unknown. What does a yoga practice have in store for you? Only so much is evident from reading the experiences in a blog from a teacher. See you on the mat!