Monday, September 27, 2010

Letting No one Steal Your Peace?

I'm supposed to meet with the studio owner and the adv. teacher tomorrow. I spoke with the owner about the whole incident, and I dunno. Owner described the teacher as "tactless," but seems to think that it's not that big a deal. Owner gave me a lot of the "let no one steal your peace" stuff.

I don't want to be treated unfairly or badly. If I seek to remove myself from classes and a teacher who does that, am I copping out, am I letting her steal my peace?

This feels like a no-win situation.
Either I take classes with this teacher, which pretty much guarantees that I'll be asked to take crap from her --(and by 'take crap,' I don't mean being criticized or pushed hard or challenged; I mean being treated badly by someone who doesn't care about me or my practice one iota)-
-or I miss out on advanced class and competition coaching,
or I go to great lengths to find some other arrangement to move forward with my practice--like starting all over at a new studio, or finding someone else who will help coach me, or putting it all on hold for another year.

I wish things were different. I don't know what to do. Gonna take the dog to the park, sit in the sun, and pray. My problems are little in the grand scheme of things. I'm going to try to summon up some gratitude and calmness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Focus on Practice

I felt as if I had good stamina today. I made it through my class and my work with no problems. I did all of my postures and felt pretty good about my practice.

When I'm in the standing separate leg head to knee pose, with my forehead on my knee, trying to keep my eyes open and not let sweat drip into eyes, sometimes I find myself looking at the mirrors on the side wall. More than once, I've been unable, for a moment at least, to tell which hips in black shorts and which set of legs are my own. It's a weird feeling!

I am finding that I have the strength and stamina to do a lot more consistent contracting of my muscles; I'm able to keep them contracted throughout postures. In the past, I found it very difficult. It feels great to be able to do it better, do it more.

It's most obvious in the old standing head to knee/lock the damn knee scenario (contracting the quadriceps), but I am seeing improvement in a lot of other postures when I focus on contracting muscles.

Keeping the arms straight and contracting triceps, focusing attention on my arms really helps me keep my balance better in the second part of awkward pose. I've had to work hard to focus on contracting the quads in the separate leg stretching posture. I was hyper-extending at the knee for a long time, focusing on other aspects of the posture, unaware that I wasn't engaging the quads. I especially feel a great difference when I contract the leg muscles, lock the knees, and contract the glutes in cobra pose. I am just really loving cobra pose lately.

The postures I want to work on most right now are bow pose and camel. I want to work on staying aligned well in these postures so that I'll be able to release into more of my spine. Right now, I'm aware of a lot of tiny odd things that I do with my neck if I'm not careful. I mean, I do hunchy little things, sort of going forward with my neck before I go back, and it makes a world of difference when I put my attention there and let things line up naturally.

It is amazing to find the myriad ways in which my body holds tension and how that tension can distort my body's natural healthy alignment. The distortions in the neck, back, and shoulders can be so subtle, and so habitual. Some things require a lot of work to change and/or release, but so many of them only ask us to pay a little more attention. How sweet that we can help ourselves with just a little focused effort.

Not the first time this has happened...

Yoga studio drama continues...

The studio owner has not returned my call. Studio manager says the owner's out of town for the weekend.

I'm sure that there are students who want to rush into advanced class before they've built a good foundation. I'm sure that there are many times when a teacher needs to gently suggest that someone work on a specific aspect of their practice before moving on to advanced series. I understand that it can be really difficult for a teacher in those circumstances. It requires a lot of diplomacy and care to communicate real encouragement to the student while still letting her or him know that more work is needed before advancing.

I spoke with two other people who are regulars at my studios, who've competed in the championships and taken advanced series. There is, they say, a history of this teacher being rude, discouraging, humiliating, exclusionary and uncooperative with people who want to move up to a new level in their practice. One of these students told me about a couple of instances that took place and said, "I bet (the owners) get at least one email or call each week complaining about (teacher in question)." She said, "Don't worry, it's not you. It's her." She urged me to stand my ground and insist on taking the classes with the 'mean' teacher.

The thing is, I don't want to take a class or be coached by somebody who is so disrespectful towards me. I don't trust this person. I don't feel she has my best interests at heart. She does not appear to support my practice or my personal growth in any way. I don't feel very well served by taking her classes. She is really really good at doing the postures. She is really good at telling you what's wrong with your postures. But I don't feel supported or encouraged or improved by her instruction. I am so...fed up with her right now that if I were not a work/trade member of the studio, if I didn't have a paid position there, I would stop coming to these studios and go somewhere else. If I could, I would avoid this person for the rest of my life.

In a really lovely, fair, pleasant all the time world, the studio owner would remove this person from her position leading advanced class and coaching for competition. But I don't think that's gonna happen, any more than I expect the 'mean' teacher to suddenly become kind, encouraging, and inspiring to me. This teacher has a long history of unpleasant interactions with students, and it doesn't seem like she's ever been held accountable for it. I guess I'm supposed to get all yogic and spiritual about it and figure out some way to deal with her. Right now, I feel like, "f*ck that." It ain't right, she's not right, and I don't want to deal with her.

So here's the worst part: I have a desk shift and cleaning shift before and after her class this afternoon. If I want to practice today, I have to take her class. There's no way that I can sign in students today without having to talk to her. F*ck.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Full moon, head full of thoughts, heart full of emotions...

So, I am thinking more about my interaction with the advanced teacher/competition coach, and I feel so...squashed. I feel a little bit like she crapped all over my yoga.

I can't begin to imagine how I could possibly take classes and be coached by someone who doesn't want me in her class, doesn't think I am prepared for advanced classes, speaks to me in a disrespectful manner, and shows very little concern for my feelings.

I don't mind the idea of a coach who pushes you hard or pressures you to do more, but I can't bear the thought of training with someone who doesn't seem to want me to succeed.

I have learned one thing from this situation: You can know a ton about the postures and alignment, but that knowledge alone won't necessarily make you a good teacher. If you don't have compassion and respect for your students, you can hurt them more than help them. My feelings are hurt, but I'm not so fragile that this will ruin me. But I know that I never want to discourage students when I teach.

In my limited experience, teaching other styles of yoga, I have taught people who are elderly and have come close to giving up on their health, their bodies, and sometimes even on life itself. I've taught at risk youth, and girls in drug treatment, kids who have sometimes been told again and again that they're not good enough for success, for college, for a good job, for love, for a decent life. People with fragile hope need to be treated with care and compassion. One of the things I cherish about yoga is how the practice can bring us back to our strengths, can show us possibility. I want to, and I try to, nurture a sense of possibility in students. Yoga is so challenging, but so forgiving and so welcoming.

I wish I had a kind-hearted advanced teacher/coach who was sensitive to my feelings and supported me in my goals.

I don't know how I can compete if I don't take this not-so-kind teacher's classes. But I don't think I can take her classes. I could go once a week, to the other advanced class, and try to work more on my own. I can't afford to pay for practice at another studio, and I've worked hard to get my work trade and paid position at our NE studios. I don't know. I just feel a little lost and heartsick, and I'm trying to let go of it, let god or the universe or some divine spirit of yoga take care of it or show me what to do. It's not the end of the world, but it sure threw a wrench in my little plans and dreams.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


So, now I have a new challenge, one I was not expecting and do not welcome. I am up in the air right now, after experiencing a LOT of emotional turmoil this evening. I don't know what to d0--don't know what I can do--in an upsetting and disappointing situation.

My studios have advanced classes twice a week. We don't have an officially certified-for-advanced class teacher, but we have two very accomplished certified teachers of the beginning series who "lead" the advanced practice. Right now, close to the Championships, the studios also have a coaching night for competitors, and coaching night is led by an advanced class teacher/leader.

My schedule has not allowed for me to attend advanced classes, though I was invited to attend (by the studio owner) a year ago. Having been encouraged to participate in the competition, I made plans to attend advanced class. Last night, I spoke with the studio owner, the studio manager, and another new-to-competition student about attending advanced tonight. I juggled my schedule and took beginning series class, worked a shift at the front desk, and was preparing to run to the other studio for advanced practice. The woman who is leading advanced had just finished teaching at the place I did my desk shift. When she was leaving, I said, "I guess I'll see you at advanced tonight," and that was the last normal moment in my life for the next hour.

She looked at me with a completely horrified expression, and she said, "Were you invited to attend advanced? Who told you you could go?" She went on to tell me that she feels I am not ready, and though she can't stop me from attending, she would prefer that I didn't.
I stared at her, looking like I don't know what, but I was stunned, hurt, bitterly disappointed, and just freaking shocked, really.

She said, "What are you thinking?" and I said, "All kinds of things, really." She said, "Oh? Tell me two or three of them." I told her that I was disappointed and felt very rejected. She said, "See? That's why I think you're not ready. It's not about your ego."

We actually sort of quarreled after that, trying to communicate. I felt as if everything I said was either misunderstood or invalidated by this woman, and I am really fairly flummoxed. This woman does the coaching for competition, and she leads one of the weekly advanced classes. I feel as if it is going to be very difficult and horrible for me to try to attend these classes with her as my coach and teacher.

I know that I am not perfect and I have ego issues and insecurities, but I can't help feeling that this woman was rude--or at least very insensitive--and not at all supportive of me or my practice. I feel very confused, because I've had several other teachers urge me to compete and to strive to go to teacher training, and to attend advanced practice. I am not the greatest yogi in the room, but my practice has come so far. It's baffling to be encouraged, then have someone in a position of authority take pains to DIScourage me. It is infuriating to try to explain my feelings and defend myself only to have my ego blamed for all the problems, mixed messages, and misunderstandings, the disappointment, hurt, and, well, what feels like disrespect. Ugh.

Maybe something will seem clearer later. I am hoping to speak with the studio owner tomorrow, but tonight, for a little while, it's felt like everything is ruined, that I'll never be able to take advanced, go to teacher training, or be in the competition. I am so angry with this teacher right now, and trying to resolve these emotions seems almost impossible. Let no one steal your peace, but gosh, I really didn't expect to have something like this happen. I don't know what to do. This woman has lots of influence at our studios. This disappointing assessment of my practice, along with the really really unpleasant interaction tonight makes me feel...very ill at ease.

What am I supposed to do here?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Talk about a challenge!

I've completed 5 classes in the Living Yoga 2 month Bikram yoga challenge. Every fall, the NE studio (now 2 studios) holds a yoga-thon challenge to raise money for Living Yoga and to encourage yogis to deepen their practice.

Living Yoga is a local non-profit that brings yoga classes (taught almost entirely by volunteers) to the incarcerated, to people in rehab, and to those living in shelters. It's a great organization, and at some point, I want to blog a bit about the program and the profound difference it's made for so many. All of us participating in the challenge are collecting sponsors/donations (hey, feel free to contact me by email if you want to pledge--no donation is too small!) and trying to ramp up our practices' frequency during the period from September 15 until November 15. My goal is 62 classes in these 62 days. Five down, 57 to go.

I am also finally going to try to drag myself into advanced class, and possibly to the 'coached' class for participants in the local/regional yoga championships. I do not want to compete. I mean, I really really don't want to do this thing.

I am old, my back's not flexible, and I don't have a very pretty practice.
I wobble, I grimace, I sweat and grunt and can't go very far in many many asana.
But my teachers encourage me to train for the competition, to do deeper work on my practice, and to challenge myself. Since I've expressed interest in teacher training, I'm told that taking part in the competition will be an especially valuable experience.

I'm not ready!
I'm gonna do it anyway.
God, I'm scared.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weird but good

My class today was strange, but I so needed it, and it felt really good.

I was a little sleep-deprived, and I've been doing a lot of heavy lifting, moving furniture and boxes. I'm clearing out a lot of stuff from my house, especially all the odds and ends that have accumulated in the storage area of the basement. I got up early today to hold a yard sale with my friend, S, and we had a good day, chatting to neighbors and yard salers, wheeling and dealing, hanging out in the sunshine.

I went to class with a little sunburn, and not quite as hydrated as I wanted to be. My back was stiff. My legs felt heavy. I had trouble with every single posture that involves back flexibility, which is to say, most of them.

During the 2 minute savasana, my unfocused mind was wandering a bit, and out the blue, I was thinking about a little boy I knew in grade school.

His name was John, and in first grade, Sister Marilyn made both of us sit in the front of the classroom because we were "talkers." We were thick as thieves, and we probably talked even more, up in the front row right next to each other. One day at school, John brought a Kennedy half-dollar to class, and he proudly showed it to me. It happened to be on my birthday, and later in the day, when Sister announced that it was my birthday, John turned around in his seat and gave me his half-dollar.

A few winters later, when we were in fourth grade, John died in a sledding accident. I haven't thought about him in years, and suddenly today in savasana, I was lying there crying, remembering this sweet little boy. How strange. But it is good to remember him.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What happened there?

Today I took a late morning class, and I felt like hell going in. I was still sleepy and stiff, and I have been having a slew of digestive issues these last few days. Bleah. Just didn't feel like being there.

Have you ever started to watch a movie or TV program, and felt bored or disinterested at the beginning, considered turning it off? But then, somehow, you get caught up in the story, you're dying to know what happens next, and you've sort of lost yourself for a while because you're enveloped in this other reality?

That's was class was like today. I was so bored with pranayama. I was so not into trying to touch the ceiling during half-moon warm-up. I felt achy and cranky, and I wanted to be home, in my bed, with the covers pulled up. But somehow, I don't when or how, my mind floated out of that attitude, and I was just so engrossed in the practice that I didn't really think anymore.

How does that stuff happen? Can't I always be in that magic, non-thinking state during yoga?

You learn something over & over every day.

As I was finishing up cleaning the showers at the yoga studio tonight, I suddenly realized how tired I was. I got home a little less than an hour ago. I got up at 6:00 AM today, and our new class schedule means that cleaning lasts until 11PM, at least. I'm not really pleased about that, but oh, well.

I got up early today because I had several errands that I needed to complete before "work." I wasn't working all day, mind you, just a few hours. This morning, my work was observing a yoga class for people with Multiple Sclerosis. I'm assisting the teacher, a certified Iyengar teacher who's been living with MS for a couple of decades. It was really interesting, and I am happy to be learning more about the adaptions to postures and more about restorative postures. Bikram is my true yoga-love, but I really like exploring other styles of yoga and learning about postures or sequences that are helpful for specific groups of people. Sometimes it helps me appreciate my 26 & 2 even more!

There was one particular student who had pretty severe mobility issues, but she kept working on her practice. Tonight at my Bikram class, I was thinking of her and also remembering people from my seniors gentle yoga classes. There have been days at Bikram classes when a teacher told me to do something differently or to put more effort into it, and I thought things like, "Bitch, please, I am holding my stomach in," or, "This IS the best I can do! Lay off!" Seeing other people, outside the little bubble of our studio, doing yoga and really meeting the challenge of it, without complaint or self-pity--it makes me feel a little bit ashamed of myself. The challenges of yoga are so much deeper than the physical postures, and I can't seem to learn that fact well enough.

Ah, off to bed now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On my way to becoming Fireproof?

Today was so beautiful--a perfect autumn day: a crisp nice morning and a gorgeous sunny afternoon. It's a little sad to see the days getting shorter, but we even had a pretty sunset this evening. Me and my Buddy had the best walk ever today, and one of us chased a tennis ball around the park until he got so tired he couldn't stand up.

I spent the late afternoon at the studio, working and taking a class. The old studio has been really hot the last few days. Yesterday, I practiced at the new studio but went to the old one to do some work. People coming out of the last class at the old studio looked drained, drenched, and traumatized. The teacher told me that he felt like he was gonna pass out, it was so hot. According to the thermometer in the yoga room, it reached 118F.

So today, I took my class (no water again), and was busy thinking about my practice, thinking about what to make for dinner, thinking about friends, conversations, and job applications. My mind was wandering all over the place. I thought about how nice water was going to taste when class was finally over. I thought about that a lot.

My wandering thoughts made practice difficult in some ways. I had a hard time balancing today. In standing head to knee, by now I always lock the damn knee, for sure. But I was very wobbly today, fell out several times. Same deal with standing bow pulling pose: Wobbly, falling out. I feel as if I did a great balancing stick today though. And come to think of it, half-moon felt especially good today too.

Practicing this yoga is never easy, but some days it's really really incredibly draining, challenging, difficult, painful, or exhausting. I have lots of those rough days, days when I sit out postures or want to do so. Surprisingly, I didn't feel tired out or too hot today at class, not at all. I felt a little scatter-brained and distracted, but physically comfortable with the practice.

When we got out of class, everyone else was exclaiming, "Oh my god, it was hot!" and that sort of thing. Turns out it was 117-118 again.


This feels like some kind of amazing break-through to me in some ways. I didn't have an outstanding class, in terms of how I executed my asana, and I didn't maintain focus very well, but I withstood extra heat without even noticing it, without my mind complaining. Damn, that feels good!


I didn't drink water during class this afternoon, but it was an accident. I was working at the front desk just prior to class, signing in students, and I had to dash around, locking the front door, double checking that everyone had what they needed, and so on, just as class was starting. I ran into the room at the last minute, and I forgot to bring my water bottle.

It was fine. I was really wishing for my cool water by the time we hit fixed firm pose. It's always my weak moment. I can skip party time and any other water break, but I like a drink as I get into fixed firm. Hmph. I lived without it, no problem. And I hadn't really done much hydrating throughout the day either. I should maybe try to do without it a little more often.