The Mat Race: the unbearable lightness of just being

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As humans, we spend a great deal of time focusing on getting.

We are in a habitual state of trying to get somewhere, something, someone. As fast as humanly possible. And when we can, even faster than that. Of course, it’s never enough. There’s always something else to get.

Fast forward. Rush. Repeat.

Now, let’s add distraction to the mix. Because, come one, you can’t possibly expect us to actually be thinking about what we are doing while we are doing it???!!! iPhones and iPads and iPods, oh my!

I mean think about it. We now have TVs where we can watch more than one show at a time. When I was growing up we had one TV and one phone line. If I didn’t like the show my parents wanted to watch or someone else was using the phone, well, I would just be SOL. (Not to mention in panic mode because the boy who was supposed to call me wouldn’t be able to get through. No joke, a very serious situation.) The only ‘i’s’ I had to entertain myself with were me, myself and I. iMagine that.

(Yup, I just pulled the “when I was young” card.)

Yes, we spend a hell of a lot of time doing. Doing with distraction. Apparently it’s what makes the world go round. That and evidently hashtags.

I guess for some that’s fine. Personally, I find it exhausting. Just the idea of having to be in constant “get mode”.

And, that’s when I remember those two little words: Just Be.

If you teach yoga, you have certainly spoken them. If you practice yoga, you have certainly heard them. I mean, unless you live in a cave, you can’t really can’t go out in the world without having come across them at some point on a t-shirt, a tweet or an ad for computers. (Well, actually if you are living in a cave, you most likely are ‘just being’ and wouldn’t be reading this anyway. So bravo, you get it, well done you.)

Anyway…there are, of course, other little phrases just as trendy today that are supposed to help us get a little more chillaxified.

They are, in no particular order:
-Let go.
-Just breathe.
-Just breathe and let go.
-Just breathe, let go and just be. (My personal favorite. Say that to me, and I will be sure to poke my eye out.)

And as yoga teachers, we just love to throw these phrases out there, and then just leave them hang. You know, let…them…go…

Well here’s a newsflash, if simply saying “just be” and “let go” created a mindful soul, we would all have a peaceful existence.

I think we can all agree that we can’t just snap our fingers (or even just take a breath) and let all things go and just be. There’s a little more to it than that.

Enter: Yoga Mat

Now, you see, our practice on the mat is the one place that expects nothing from us. It is one place we don’t have to rush. There’s no place we need to go. Or have to go. Nothing to get. Where we can take the time to be reminded of our true nature of being…a human being.

Well, it should be anyway. If we allow it. We, of course, can be our own worst enemy. As Bryan Kest likes to say, “We bring our crap to yoga, and we turn our yoga to crap.” Leave it to us humans…

Enter: Mat Race

Since we don’t have a convenient on/off switch, it’s very easy to continue the cycle of doing with distraction on the mat.

You know, we are not really paying attention. Kinda just on auto pilot, going through the moves, the poses. Rushing through sun salutations. Racing ahead to the next pose. (Yeah, if you take my class, you know how much I LOVE that one). Muscling and forcing through the practice. All of this brings with it judgment, expectations, ego, goal-oriented focus. In other words, it’s about getting.

Congratulations, your yoga practice has just left the room.

Yeah, it’s really easy to get caught up with all that. Or we could…

Make a conscious decision to use that time to start to break the cycle.

We can make it less about how our pose looks, and make it more about how it feels.

We can make it about not just being in the pose, but how we get into it, too.

We can take the time to a build a foundation on the perfect combination of steady and calm, instead of trying to skip the small things so we can jump ahead to the big things.

We can slow down and find mindfulness in action, instead of reinforcing our habit of rushing with distraction.

When we start doing that, a funny thing happens along the sun salutation way,
the realization that our yoga practice is bigger than our asana practice.

Enter: Just Being

The difference between being and doing, is the difference between allowing rather than fighting. Acceptance of where we are right now – exactly as is.

And that’s the basic concept of just being.

And trying to practice it on the mat is a good place to start. After all, it is supposed to be a training ground for life. A training ground where we have the luxury (or burden, depending on how you look at it) of no distractions – no phones, no music, no one telling us that we HAVE to do anything. Just the unbearable lightness of sitting with our own crap.

OK, this would be a good place to just breathe…

Breathing. The tool on our yoga mat towards being. But more specifically, paying attention to slowing it down. Then taking the next step, letting the breath determine the pace of our physical practice and where we go in it. If our breath becomes short and choppy, that’s probably a good indication that we need to back off. We are still stuck in the doing. When we pay attention to our breath, really observe it, the mind starts to quiet down a bit and we begin feeling our practice (rather than thinking our practice). The breath is powerful. It is the link to staying present. Our first step to just being.

When we take those first steps, we begin to accept each practice on the mat just as it is.
We stop trying to get some where, and we start just being. Here. Now.
Of course, the hope is that we continue that when we step off our mat.

Enter: Life

Ah, so now this is where things get a bit trickier.

The first step is to understand that there are certain things beyond our control. Just being is not about giving up or the idea that our life is predetermined and nothing we do can change its direction. It’s grasping the difference between what we can change and what we cannot. We can’t control people’s actions or feelings, try as we might. We can’t control all the events and situations that surround us either.

But we can control our own words, actions and behavior. We can stop forcing and fighting our life. And we can stop trying to run away from the uncomfortableness of what our reality might be. Give up the fight and flight.

It’s amazing how much energy is freed when we stop resisting our life. Go ahead, take that great big ridiculous exhale. You know you want to.

Wow, did you feel that? The 100lb weight of judgment and expectations just fell off your back.

All that energy we were wasting on forcing and fighting, just opened up a whole big space called acceptance and allowing. Acceptance of where we are. Allowing the moment as it is.

Feeling lighter? Everyone knows resisting weighs more than allowing. Just sayin’.

Of course, it’s always easier said than done. When we are riding that wave of “things are going our way,” the situation as is seems pretty sweet. Allowing and accepting when things turn to shit, well that’s usually when “just being” hits the yoga studio ceiling fan.

But the universe has a funny kind of rhythm to it. And if we keep focus on the intention behind what we do (why we are doing it), rather than the end goal (the outcome), it all has a way of falling into place.

Now, we might not get everything we want, when we want it. But I will tell you this: We do get what we need, at the right time. It might not be obvious when it’s happening, but everything has a way of unfolding as it needs to.

Just being is bigger than the practice of presence. It’s a complete and utter awareness that the moment you are in is enough. It’s being strong enough to enter each moment with honesty and compassion, but soft enough to relinquish attachment to the outcome.

I started teaching yoga because it was so life changing for me that I wanted to share it. There was nothing else. I was also lucky – it was before yoga was trendy. No one was really practicing yoga. I had no visions of yogi rock stardom. (That phrase didn’t even exist at the time, and still shouldn’t IMHO.) I didn’t have a grand plan for getting famous. I didn’t buy followers on Facebook. (Well, in all fairness, there was no Facebook. Don’t worry, I won’t start talking about the fact that we only had books made out of paper.) There were certainly no “talent agencies” for yoga instructors to help give the appearance of popularity and help to give a following unearned. I focused on my practice. On learning. I shared what I loved and what I knew to be true for me. And students began to come.

I can now look back and see that I am where I am because I just let it be. Unknowingly, perhaps. But it’s the truth just the same. Nothing was forced, I just allowed it to evolve. And opportunities showed up. Never too soon, and never too late. I can tell you, I never planned on running my own studio. But here I am, over 20 years later, herding cats. (You studio owners will get that.) All I can say is, thank god I love cats.

You see, some things just can’t be rushed. Time for instance. You can’t rush it, you can’t force it. Our experience and growth comes from time.

Whether it’s our practice on the mat. Or our practice off.

So, to all the yoga students, leave your cellphone at home. Next time you step on your mat, don’t be in such a hurry to get. Pay attention to the little things instead. And build your practice from there. Sure, doing all the “fancier” poses can be fun. But I can tell you this, everything wrong in your life will not suddenly be fixed if you can press yourself up into headstand. Or even grab your toe in triangle pose. I will tell you what might just change your life for the better: focusing on how you go. The practice of slow, the practice of stillness, the practice of the process, the practice of mindfulness in action. Make the small things the big things. And you might just end up living a life less rushed. A life more lived. If that leads to doing a handstand, too, well then bravo to you too. At least your foundation will be solid.

To all the new yoga teachers out there, throw the script away. Stop trying to get somewhere. You can’t force experience. Use each day off your mat as lesson for when you teach those practicing on their mat. Only you can live your life. Use it. Not someone else’s. But remember, you can’t rush it. Teach from where you are at that very moment. As the moment is. Don’t try to make it a different one. Because really, that’s the only one you have. You will find your voice from your heart. And that is more than enough. Your authenticity will be followed. And if you get 50,000 Instagram followers in the course of all that, well that’s awesome, too. And you can be satisfied knowing it will be real.

So, we’ve come to the point where I normally would tie it all together and say something really profound…

Instead I am letting…it…go…

So you can begin to just be…

Secret Single Behavior of a Yoga Goddess: kombucha, kale and selfie flare

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Secret Single Behavior (or SSB): (noun) a habit or activity that one might like to indulge in when home alone. (Of course, you don’t need to be single – it’s just stuff that goes down when no one’s around).

Yoga Goddess (or YG): (noun) any woman from Western civilization who teaches yoga for a living.

I read that definition in an article written by a wise woman a few years back, and it stuck. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t like a job title with the word goddess in it?

Secret Single Yoga Goddess Behavior (or SSYGB): (noun) those things YGs do when they are not working. (You know, the stuff that goes down when our students aren’t around.)

Now, before some of you start hating, I am a yogi and I try to live my yoga. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Occasionally stumbling along the way. I am not talking about someone who preaches but doesn’t practice. I am actually talking about those who try to practice each and every yama and niyama (yoga’s ethical principles) every single day of the year. But there are always those stereotypical ideas about us. The misconceptions of how we spend our time when not teaching. Usually things that really aren’t relevant to whether we are a good yoga teacher or “real yogi.” And maybe SSYGB is less about what we do and more about what we might not do. And while as YGs we should always aspire to live our yoga, we are not only yoga. It’s not all kombucha, kale and kumbaya.

Of course, I can’t speak for all the YGs out there, but here is a small glimpse into my SSYGB, my world out of the studio:

  • As I just mentioned, kombucha is not for me. Nor are juice cleanses and endless cups of green tea. If you love that stuff, rock on. I prefer my coffee in the morning and my wine at night. I will sip Wild Turkey on occasion. As a SYG, I have been known to hang out at a bar every now and again. My shot of choice, tequila. Two shots…well, no good ever comes from that. And that’s all I am saying about it.
  • Yes, I fit the vegetarian stereotype. I got the whole ahimsa, non-violence thing going on. But wagons were built to fall off. I don’t cook, so it is usually take out for me. My freezer contains exactly three items: vodka, ice cream and ice. As long as I have coffee, half and half, and cat food (for my cat, not me, FYI) in good supply, I can survive days without going out. Oh, and wine too. Let’s not forget that. I like my pizza and french fries, and the endless supply of homemade baked goodies my friends make for me – in moderation, of course. But we all need to indulge sometimes. You can keep your kale, if I can keep my gluten.
  • I do not spend my time off taking yoga selfies. (Except the one for this article, of course). I rarely #stopdropandyoga. I also do everything I can to avoid following anyone on Instagram who posts a new pose #everydamnday. Post a high quality sarcastic quote, a cute cat or anything from Jared Leto, and I be liking. MY yoga challenge is trying to find ways to avoid seeing Instagram #yogachallenge postings. However, I will say this, you Instagram celebs get a whole new respect from me. How do you do it? I spent about five hours on just that one shot. Talk about practicing tapas – burn baby burn. It would take me another hour to just try and type all those cute hashtags on my tiny little keyboard to post with it. You are all #instacool.
  • I don’t spend all day practicing yoga. (Well, I “practice” it all day long. But I mean the actual physical kind on the mat). Sometimes after being at my studio every day for five days straight, the last thing I want to do is take my mat out. (I might want to pull some hairs out, though.) The first thing I want to do is feel my ass on the couch and a drink in my hand. I wear many masks to run my studio. Mental and physical exhaustion sets in, and I can be pretty lazy when I am off. Case in point, the pizza I mentioned above. I store my empty pizza boxes in the oven. The recycling bin at my condo complex is THREE buildings away. (Remember, I don’t cook, so I never use my oven. Have no fear all you Fire Marshals out there!) I look at it more as brahmacharya – energy conservation – why make five trips when I can do it in just one? Makes good sense to me. The boxes fit quite neatly and are out of sight in the oven, so there’s your saucha – cleanliness. And that, my friends, is the art of killing two yoga principles with one stove.
  • I do not spend all my time talking about yoga. Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration…yoga does come up in my conversations probably a bit more than the normal non-yoga goddess person. But often it’s to make fun of it. Yes, I am a firm believer that it is good to laugh at yoga. (This article for instance…THAT’S FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NOT GOTTEN THE JOKE YET. Yes, I was yelling). Yoga is life changing stuff and sometimes we need to lighten up about it. Especially if we are trying to practice it. But mostly my girlfriends and I talk about sex, saving turtles, getting old, solving world hunger, girl problems (the struggle is real), my online dating tribulations (that’s for comedy relief after the whole world hunger conversation), how it would be so much better if women ran the world, and who we want to punch in the face, but of course won’t because, you know, all that yoga and non-violence crap we are supposed to be practicing. (I think that’s probably the point in the conversation where we start mocking yoga).
  • Now, as mentioned before, being single is not required for your normal secret single behavior. Nor is it for SSB of a yoga goddess. All of the above can be “practiced” single, attached or otherwise engaged. But, I am single, so here goes…believe it or not, the last thing I want to do is date a yoga dude. I don’t know what it is, but most of the ones I have met were just way too intense for me – and I refer back to the need to “lighten up” and the “yoga crap” mentioned above. (Disclaimer: I said “most,” not all. Just to clarify, before you yoga dudes get your yoga shorts all in a bunch.) Too much of a good thing perhaps? I prefer someone to be yang to my yin. Sthira to my sukha. Hard to my soft. (OK people, get your minds out of the gutter, you yoga peeps know what I’m talkin’ about). Maybe this is where I should give another shout out to all you Fire Marshals…

So you ask, what is the point to all of this? Well, I guess it’s this. I am just like everyone else. Simply trying to do the best I can. Hopefully, because of my yoga practice, maybe I do that with a little more awareness than I would have if I had not found yoga.

We all have our jobs, some of us are lucky enough to have not only careers we love, but careers that are true extensions of our self. I am one of those. But no matter how much we love our job or live our job, we all need to sometimes let our hair down and take our yoga pants off.

Whether I throw out my pizza boxes that day or the next week, or drink wine instead of green tea, doesn’t determine whether I am a good person or not. I will tell you what does – my actions, my words, how I treat others, my intentions behind what I do. Do I succeed all the time? No. But without yoga, I would most likely fail more often than not.

And I don’t think this makes me less of a yoga teacher either. I think it makes me a realistic one. Perhaps I don’t fit into the “typical” stereotype with some things, but I won’t pretend to be something I am not – secretly or not so secretly. I am fairly confident that many of my students already know quite a few of the aforementioned things. (And if not, now they do.)

Honesty trumps hummus. (And there’s another one of those damn yamas popping up again.)

So you see, it’s not about kombucha, kale or selfie flare. It’s about the yamas, the niyamas and perhaps knowing a quote or two from the Dalai Lama. Can you like and do those three things AND practice the yamas and niyamas? Absofuckinlutely. (And if you haven’t picked up on that yet, I recommend going back to the part about lightening up and getting the joke). Yoga Gs don’t need to own mala beads to practice mindful deeds. But ya can…

A few of my yogi friends and I like to joke that we do yoga so we don’t kill people. And while obviously the reality is not that extreme, I do know without yoga I would be a lot worse off.

And this is what else I know: I know that when I would rather run away screaming from an extremely difficult situation, yoga has helped me stay and see it through. I know that I have absolutely no control over other people’s actions, but I do have control over mine. I know that most of the time more force creates more resistance, and though usually the harder choice, by letting go just enough the universe has a funny way of working things out – the way they should.

And because of my practice I know that I am enough, and looking for someone or something else to complete me would be an endless search.

I know that I am totally, abundantly flawlessly flawed, and sometimes the best thing I can do is just try to keep it real. And get my ass off the couch and back on the mat…where I can keep practicing it all.

I also know that life is pretty messy, and sometimes #whenyogajustisntenough, well there is always that bottle of vodka in the freezer…

#SSYGB
read elephant journal version….

How The Grinch Found Yoga

“An open heart is an open mind” – Dalai Lama

How The Grinch Found Yoga_part oneFeatured on elephantjournal.com.
Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

Every yogi in Yogaville liked yoga a lot….
But the Grinch, who lived just west of Yogaville, did not!
The Grinch hated yoga! The whole yoga culture!
Now, please don’t ask why. It would only be torture.
It could be his mind was closed a little too tight.
It could be, perhaps, that his breath was too slight.
But I think that the most likely reason could be,
He kept his heart protected, not allowing it to be free.

Whatever the reason, his heart or his mind.
He stood there that evening, not feeling very kind.

Staring into the studio, with the look of displease,
At the warm yoga bodies moving with such ease.
For he knew every yogi was perfecting their pose,
While looking their best in their fancy yoga clothes.
“And they’re standing on their hands,” he said with despair,
“Without a single strand moving, not one! In their hair!”

Their photos, their quotes, their Instagram postings!
The kale and kombucha, the juice cleanse hostings!
And soon, oh so soon, they would be yoga singing!
The sound of their OMs! Well, it would have his ears ringing!

Then he got an idea! A crazy idea!
This “unyogic” Grinch got a crazy idea!
The Grinch held his breath, not knowing what was in store.
He walked up to the studio, and opened the door…

The Grinch came from the outside and found his way in.
Which is often how many of us also begin.
He stepped onto a mat, without expectation.
The evolution was slow, but he found meditation.

And there on the mat, released of all drama.
The Grinch discovered more than only one of the yamas.
It just takes some presence, a trust in the self.
In mindful action, the Grinch found some wealth.

And the Grinch, with his grinch hands touching his toes,
looked around in amazement, thinking, “How could it be so?”

“It came without judgment! It came without goals!”
“It came without challenges, selfies or ‘no’s’!”
And he sat down a few moments, till his breath became longer.
His mind became quiet, his inner voice grew stronger.
“Maybe yoga,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a pose.”
“Maybe yoga… perhaps…is an exercise for the soul.”

And what happened then? Well…in Yogaville they say,
That the Grinch’s trapped heart broke open that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite such a mess,
His mind opened up too and he found yoga bliss.
And he stepped on his mat. Both feet firmly at home!
And he, he himself! The Grinch sang the last OM!

Love Dr. Seuss? Love yoga? Buy Lyn’s book, Om, the Poses You’ll Do!
Version 2

Available on Amazon.com

Yoga Teachers and Studio Owners: Let’s be sure to practice asteya, when sharing please give credit to the author.
Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman/Flickr

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Mat Markers and Mindfulness: the simple significance of saucha

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Oh the horror! The horror!!! It’s sometimes interesting how a tiny little thing, like a piece of tape, can create such a strong reaction.

For those of you who take class at my studio, well, you know what I am talking about. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, well, I am speaking of mat markers. Yup, those dreaded little shapes we tape to the yoga studio floor to line up our mats. Now, for those who know me, you can laugh and say my use of markers has a direct correlation with my mild case of OCD. And, I would not disagree. But if you really know me, then you will also understand that there is a bit more to it.

I am talking about SAUCHA. Or PURITY, CLEANLINESS.

In yoga philosophy we have these things called the Yamas and Niyamas. (Now, before your eyes glaze over, read on…) Basically, they are ethical and mindful observations, practices, restraints. These would be the things that we try to practice on a daily basis. The part of the yoga practice that we talk about doing OFF our mats. The part that has nothing do with how flexible we are or whether we can touch our toes. You know, the living our yoga part of yoga. Some are pretty obvious practices: Satya/Truthfulness, Ahimsa/Compassion (or Non-Violence). And though the meanings might seem obvious, each one actually has many layers to it. And so it is with Saucha. The yamas and niyamas also tend to overlap. It’s impossible to practice one without some of the others getting into the mix. Which, of course, means this is about more than just cleanliness.

On its most basic level, when we talk about Saucha, I probably don’t have to really spell it out. Cleanliness of body, our environment. On a deeper level, we would be talking about purity of mind. The intentions behind our words and actions…the why, the motivation. Is it from a place of compassion rather than selfishness? Of course, I am putting this in its most simplest terms.

Since our practice on the mat is considered a training ground for our life off the mat, in our classes we try to apply mental and physical practices to help bring awareness to these things. (We are sneaky like that.) I mean, when it comes down to it, practicing yoga is really about becoming more aware. And, hopefully, someday these practices begin to show up after stepping off our mats. And that’s where those dreaded mat markers come in….

Over the course of many years, I have watched how students react to their practice and surroundings. And, of course, I have also observed my own actions and reactions. I do firmly believe that the way we approach our yoga mats and treat the surrounding area when we practice is a good gauge on how we treat and approach life and the world in general.

If we tend to take care with how we place our mats, our towels, and water bottles. (Do you really need your sweatshirt, watch, socks right next to you when you practice? Um, that’s what those things at the end of the room are for. We call them cubbies).  If we are aware of our space and treat it with respect. (Those 5 towels your brought with you, do they need to be thrown in a messy pile in the space next to you? really? I mean, really?). Meaning not just the physical act of keeping our space neat and clean, but how we move within that space. If we understand how any movement we make, any energy we bring to class, not only affects ourselves, but those on the mats next to us. Especially when those markers are placed way too close for our own comfort zone. (Guess what, we do that on purpose…it’s a test. Mhmm, you heard me. It’s a test.) If we take time to slow down, and BREATHE, move with the intention that the ONLY reason to do anything in the process is because it feels right. If we start with these simple little practices, how can they not eventually reach beyond the space of our yoga mat, to the bigger things?

So, next time we have the urge to move farther away from others when they put their mat down next to ours, or feel the need to have not only our mat with us while we practice but the whole kitchen sink, too, or perhaps try to force ourselves into a pose we might not be ready for… instead, we take a moment and reflect on the bigger meaning. Maybe we embrace the idea of connection rather than more distance (I promise if you accidentally touch the student next to you when you practice, your world won’t end as you know it. Hmm..maybe it will add to some growth), we embrace the flexibility of adjusting to our environment rather than forcing our environment to adjust to us (yup, that wall behind you is NOT going to move out of your way, maybe you need to bend your leg a little when you lift it up behind you or adjust your position on your mat), we embrace the idea that we are enough and clarity is not found in clutter (I think I mentioned those cubbies already…), we embrace finding contentment in the process rather than forcing an outcome, we embrace taking a breath first…making each movement purposeful and with good intention. After all, how we do the little things, is how we do the big things.

Because the reality is, all of those things require flexibility, but none of those things require being able to touch our toes. Being flexible in our minds is what makes us strong.

I guess what it comes down to is, if a simple little thing like a mat marker on the floor can lead to a bigger thing like more mindfulness…well, that’s significant….

And just use the damn markers…

Buddhi Lyn

Kind words from a kind man….Thank you Tedrowe Bonner…

Gnostic Green

The famous mystic spiritualist G. I. Gurdjieff once noted, “He who has freed himself of the disease of ‘tomorrow’ has a chance to attain what he came here for.” Lyn Kehoe picks up on this theme in her latest article on teaching yoga, which challenges all instructors to move beyond functional yoga and the illusion of perfection. The article, like Lyn’s classes, focus on one being –being present – now, both for the instructors and the students. Like her studio, she presents the virtues of discipline in a very grounded and healthy way.  

Lyn’s studio is Buddhi Mat Yoga in Ridgefield, CT. Congratulations to Lyn for her article titled, “The Practice of Teaching: 3 Things Every Yoga Teacher Should Know.

At Practice At Practice

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The Practice of Teaching: 3 more things every yoga teacher should know

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Read the Elephant Journal version HERE!

If practicing yoga is about more than just the pose, then so is teaching yoga.

And while we can be given tools to help us learn to instruct, teaching is something that will come from knowledge that is already inside of us.

When we first start teaching, it’s easy to get lost in the instructing and forego the teaching.

Instructing requires us to have a strong working knowledge of the body and a firm grip on proper alignment. The surface elements of the practice. All very important.

Teaching comes from the wisdom we have gained from our own personal experiences and our willingness to break open enough to be willing to share. It is not something that can be learned.

Instructing comes from the head. Teaching comes from the heart.

Often in my classes after giving detailed alignment of a pose, I then tell my students to just let all of that go. Stop trying to do the pose and allow yourself to just be in the pose.

When we step into the classroom to lead a class, it’s not much different than stepping onto our own mat to practice. Try not to get lost in the doing….

1. Don’t Compromise Your Foundation:

I constantly tell my students in class that the pose will only be as strong as the foundation they build it on. And nothing is worth sacrificing a calm, steady foundation. The same is true for teaching.

In asana practice it might start with a smooth, flowing breath. A stable, sturdy connection to the ground.

Our teaching foundation develops from what keeps us personally coming back to the mat. Day after day. That which we connect to.

There can be an overwhelming amount of information to be absorbed, and then expected to be applied during the training process. One of my first teachers told us to take what makes sense and throw the rest away. I hold onto that to this day. I stopped trying to teach the right way, and began teaching my way. The way that feels right for me.

This is found deep inside, an intuitive nature that speaks from the heart. Our truth.

Our teaching is only as strong as the foundation we build it on. Nothing is worth compromising this. No class, no studio, no job. And the fact is, when we let our authenticity shine through, all of those things will come.

Find your truth, the students will hear.

2. Focus more on the In and less on the Out:

One of the most challenging things I still find to this day when teaching, is to get students to let go of the outward focus of the practice (pose), and put more effort to understanding and beginning with the inward focus (breath). I try to emphasize if they trust the inner process, the outer process will begin to happen.

And as a newer teacher, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up with the same thing. Fearful of boring our students, we end up spending large amounts of time creating new sequences, interesting transitions or finding more challenging poses. Instructing begins to trump teaching.

The reality is, holding a student’s attention and keeping it interesting comes from teaching what is inside of us. Speaking directly from our hearts, our experiences. Channeling those experiences to make them relevant to our students, without making it about ourselves.

At my lowest points, I have been able to make the greatest connections with my students. I have walked into a classroom more times than I would like to remember thinking “how can I possibly hold my students up, when I can barely hold myself up?” At those times the only thing I had was my own practice. I had to be so firmly grounded, focused and present that only my truth at that moment could come out.

When we awaken our own inner teacher and let it free, our students will begin to find theirs too. This will not come from our sequence, but it will come from our words. Headstand and arm balances are not required. Raw honesty and continuous self study are. If we never stop working on the inside, guaranteed the outside will start to fall into place.

Find your inner teacher, and the students will follow.

3. It’s About the Process, Not the Destination:

There will always be three more things you need to know. And two years from now, five years from now and 10 years from now there will still be three, five, 10 more things you need to know….and that’s ok. I have been teaching for almost 20 years, and I hope I never get to a place where I feel there is nothing left to learn. I mean, if we are living how can we not be learning?

Just like our practice on the mat, teaching yoga is a process as well.  Each day it will be different and it always will be changing. It will never be perfect. And not always easy.

Give yourself a break in striving for the perfection of instructing. Allow yourself the imperfectness and freedom to teach.

Do less. Be more.

Instruct to exercise the body. But teach to exercise the soul.

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Lyn’s power yoga school is located in Ridgefield, CT where she offers mentoring and a 200 HR yoga teacher certification.

The Myths and Mindfulness of Power Yoga

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Growth comes from when things are difficult.

I started practicing power yoga almost 20 years ago. I remember a teacher early on saying that life is hard, so your practice on the mat should be hard. Wow, immediate attention and connection.

The fact is the lessons on the mat are really life lessons.

How we react to the challenge on the mat is how we ultimately will react to the challenges in life. And miraculously, this very physical practice showed me the way to start being less concerned about the outside, and more concerned about what was going on in the inside. This was coming from a very externally physically focused individual.

Power yoga changed my mindset, changed my life.

Over the last two decades I have read many articles, blogs and random comments in news feeds about power yoga. I have found that it is often misunderstood and given a bad rap.

Some of the misconceptions are:

It’s just exercise and there is nothing spiritual about it.
The philosophical part of yoga is taken out.
Just turn up the heat, move real fast, throw in lots of arm balances, have a kick ass playlist and that makes it power yoga.
It’s Hot Yoga. (And let me just clarify, I have no qualms with Hot Yoga, but the two are different). And last but not least, it’s not real yoga.

When it comes down to it, if we are on the path of truth, self-discovery, trying to make the world a better place…who are we to judge which path is chosen? The point is, we are on the path. And just because something is challenging on the outside does not mean it is not meaningful on the inside.

So after many years in the making (and procrastination), I sat down to set the record straight. This is what came out. Words from the heart of a yogi, not the mind of a writer……what power yoga is and what it is not…

It is NOT yoga for fitness.
It IS yoga for mindfulness.

It is NOT about having a perfect body to feed your ego.
It IS about maintaining a healthy body to house your soul.
It is NOT all about working out.
It IS everything about working in.

It is NOT about the pose or even being in the pose.
It IS about how you get into the pose and how you react to the pose.
It is NOT about how the pose looks.
It IS about how the pose feels.

It is NOT about where you go or learning to stand on your own two hands.
It IS about how you go and learning to stand on your own two feet.
And sometimes in life, when it’s necessary,
it will teach you how to stand on just one.

It is NOT about pushing, forcing, and muscling through physical challenges.
It IS about strengthening the soft and softening the hard through life’s challenges.
Falling. And landing.
Chaos. With calmness.
Options. No conditions.
Slow. Not fast.
Simple. Never easy.

It is NOT about what gets in the way of your practice.
It IS about getting out of your own way when you do.
It is NOT about running from discomfort.
It IS about finding comfortable in uncomfortable.
Not allowing yourself to break down, but giving yourself the opportunity to break open.

It is NOT about listening to the voices of judgment and searching for answers on the outside.
It IS about trusting your silent voice of wisdom only to discover that the answers are already there on the inside.
Picking up the right. Throwing down the wrong.
Stepping on your mat a mess. Stepping off having found bliss.

It is about less drama and more yamas.
It is about coming to your mat and practicing sukha and sthira, ahimsa and satya, saucha and santosha…
The focus is the process, rather than goal oriented madness.
Not being where you want to be, but accepting where you are.

Being guided by intention. Not mindless action.
A moving meditation. Not bending with distraction.
Sweating out the stress. Knowing perfection does not exist.
Trusting the breath never steers wrong, and in surrender you will find strong.

It is about thinking less. And being more.
Becoming less self-centered. And more other-centered.
Looking out for yourself less. Looking into yourself more.
Practicing there, so that you can take it here…

On the mat is where you start. Off is where you begin.

It is NOT about being a perfect person.
It IS about becoming a better human being.

~Link to the elephant journal version.

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Lyn’s power yoga studio is located in Ridgefield, CT.