About a year ago I quit wearing my Garmin (FitBit/Apple watch/Letsfit, whatever your poison :) It occurred to me that I exercised only to achieve an arbitrary goal instead of for the enjoyment it brought me. For the feeling of warmth, strength and power I felt. I never walked simply to enjoy the walk, the flowers, the blue sky. I never stopped to feel my feet on the ground, the breeze on my skin or the sunlight on my face.
It reminds me of a book I’m reading by Thich Nhat Hanh. He talks about doing things just to do them, not to achieve a goal. He says that everything you need you already possess. I read that and thought, “Really? Maybe YOU possess everything you need but not me.” LOL!
The Yoga Sutras are one of the ancient documents that guides the philosophy of yoga. “There’s yoga philosophy?” you might ask. “There’s more to yoga than getting my foot behind my head?” YES. There’s so much more. I love the Sutras but like any ancient writing we have to determine what is relevant to our lives today and what is oceans away from what we need.
Ahimsa is the first (and possibly most important) of the Sutras. I think of this one as “first do no harm.” Seems particularly relevant at this time in history. Not only are we dealing with a pandemic (which feels like a slow burning forest fire right now, tiresome yet deadly) but we are also dealing with the outcome of harm that has been placed on our BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community for years. The question is, how do we continue on the path of Ahimsa in the present day? How do we keep from perpetuating harm?
Ahimsa begins with ourselves. Not harming ourselves. Sometimes we think and speak not so nice things about ourselves. We all do it. We try to burn ourselves down from the inside, wallowing in every negative thought. But would we think these thoughts about our loved ones? We certainly NEVER say those things to our loved ones yet we it feels oddly ordinary to do it to ourselves.
Ahimsa means looking at yourself as a loved one. You are your greatest love! That may feel strange at first because our conditioning has taught us otherwise. We are taught to look outside of ourselves for love. We are taught that it is selfish to do kind things for ourselves first. We are thought that a good person is always selfless and gives to others first. But when we do this we are depleting ourselves.
We’ve all heard the phrase “giving from an empty cup.” When we take care and love ourselves first then we are giving from the overflow not trying to scrap the bottom of a desert dry well to bring water to a thirsty friend. When our cup is always full, we are absolutely overflowing with an ocean of love to give. This is the truth and very far from what our culture has taught us.
If we all began to love and care for ourselves more this world might look very different. We might not see the gaping red-sea divide that exists in our society today. Deborah Adele (author and yoga teacher) has this to say:
“Ultimately we have just one moral duty:
to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves,
more and more peace,
and to reflect it towards others.
And the more peace there is in us,
the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
Deborah Adele, Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice
The best part is that taking care of ourselves can be fun! When we practice yoga together (virtually and in-person) then we feel better. We are taking care of ourselves, together. I love how our yoga community supports each other and feel very grateful for ya’ll. We get to practice Ahimsa together every day!
I recently read a quote that said, discomfort is a wise teacher, and unconsciously found my head spasm a nod in agreement. Discomfort is an interesting thing. We try to avoid it at all costs and yet there are so many times in our life when we will be uncomfortable. The dentist is one that comes to mind immediately. But what else? Remember waiting in line at the DMV? Ever wait in line for so long you felt your muscles clench up and thought you would pull your hair out?
Now we have phones to help us fill that time. Technology helps us to not mentally BE in those uncomfortable positions. Our children can now play video games in line at the grocery store. No more temper tantrums (well until you take away the Ipad then be ready for a truly uncomfortable experience). No more clenched jaw when your little paper number didn’t get called, again. No more boredom. And, no more being aware of our actual experience, feelings or thoughts. Scrolling our phones is way more entertaining than listening to our internal dialogue of worries or to-do lists. But what are we possibly losing?
Think of the muscles in our bodies. If we don’t use them they become weak. The muscles we are losing here are those that help us to really feel and cope with the uncomfortable, even painful experiences in life.
And maybe that’s why this time in history has been so hard for us! We aren’t used to being told that we can’t have all the comforts we desire and our normal routines. That we can’t have hugs from loved ones and to see their fully unmasked faces. All of this makes us feel very tense, irritable and uncomfortable! There is no amount of technology that can help us hide from this.
Yoga teaches us a lot about discomfort. Ever fallen on your face in crow pose? I have. It was UNCOMFORTABLE. On the up side…is there an up side to falling on your face?…maybe this unusual time of quarantine can help us strengthen our coping skill muscles. The more we can get used to discomfort, the more we are able to cope with it and possibly even grow from it. How many people didn’t know how to use Zoom six months ago but are rocking it now? We are learning here people!
Now let’s learn to take the lessons from our yoga mat into our everyday. So next time you are in pigeon pose (or any posture that is not your favorite) try this. Bring all your awareness and focus right to the place in your body where you feel the uncomfortable sensation.
Lean into that sensation. Lean in to the uncomfortable. Lean in to your lived experience. Lean in to the present. Lean in to life.
"Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride." -AB
It's with a sad heart that I write that line. In some ways I disagree. Being a novice nutritionist in my free time has taught me that what we put in our bodies is important. Still I can't shake it. What is life without joy? Anthony Bourdain ended his joyride in a baffling way that left us all wondering, "where's happy?" Excuse me for starting on such a somber note but so many of us are searching for joy, happiness, contentment or maybe just a life without hurt and pain.
Studies tell us that the one thing we are sorely missing in our existence is human connection. We are so virtually connected yet so terribly LONELY. So what's the cure for lonely? And what does this have to do with yoga? To me it is clearly relevant. Yoga connects us to our breathe, our bodies, our community, our humanity and our humility. I'm not going to sit here like some yogi gurus and tell you that yoga cures all. I am going to tell you that yoga and mediation helps me connect with my body in a way that no other form of exercise or activity does. I often find myself laying in shavasana at the end of class with tears rolling down my cheeks. That's why I opened The Yoga Casa. To create a community that helps people through those dark days. That creates a community where all people can find a little bit of joy. Because life is a rollercoaster, so find a community and enjoy the ride.
It's official. I've been the studio owner for The Yoga Casa for a whole week now. What a wild ride!! Before I opened the studio I spoke with MANY other owners of studios and they all warned me about how hard it was. In fact, they were down right negative. I spoke with owners who were disgruntled, overworked, fed up (one was even in the midst of divorce) and yet, I continued on. Call it stupidity?
I call it perseverance!
Ultimately, they were right. It is so hard. Everything takes 10 times longer than you thought it should. I went through three commercial realtors, probably nine contractors and interviewed loads of teachers. It's rough but when I opened my doors and 27 people walked in to the studio for my first class, well, it was worth it.
One thing I have learned is that help comes out of nowhere. Friends have dedicated time and effort to help me. My family has learned to live without me at dinner (at least for a little while). My mom was the first official TYC floor mopper. I am so grateful for all the help I have received. I certainly would not have been here today without it. And that's why when you come to The Yoga Casa (to take a yoga class, attend a workshop, hang out for happy hour or dedicate yourself to Yoga Teacher Training) you will hear me say not "welcome to my studio" but "welcome to OUR studio."
Everything that is awesome about me salutes everything awesome about you,
Lora (Owner of The Yoga Casa)
We have a seriously awesome prize to give away! This little goodie bag and everything in it came from our friends, Moss Cottage which is a small gifterie in Colleyville (#shoplocal!) It comes with the fun yoga pants bag, the "Damn, I'm cute" mirror, Lollia Hand Creme, Poo-Pourri Call of the Wild, Jack Black Lip Balm and Harper+Ari Juice Cleanse bath scrub (which smells so good I could eat it.) Over $40 worth of goodies!! Click on the link to enter. Good luck!
I shot out of bed one morning and decided I needed to do yoga teacher training. It was a silly idea; something only young flexible people do. But I did it anyway! Lucky for us yoga is a booming business. According to the study “Yoga In America” conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, 36.7 million people attended yoga classes in 2016. With all those people taking classes, more and more people (even inflexible ones like me) are considering becoming yoga instructors. Which brings up the question: what should you look for in a potential yoga teacher training? Obviously most people look at price, schedules and location but there are some other super important things to consider that you might have overlooked.
1. Look for a teacher with some history:
Be sure that you research the school you plan to attend and the main teacher who is running the school. Believe it or not, yoga teachers in Texas (I can’t vouch for other states) are not required to obtain any sort of licensure. The same goes for yoga schools. Most yoga teachers and yoga schools do obtain a certification from Yoga Alliance (a nonprofit 501(c)(6) membership professional and trade association). This is a good starting point; however, not all schools who get the certification are necessarily “good” and not all “good” schools choose to get certified.
A Yoga Alliance stamp of approval lets you know that a basic curriculum has been developed and that specific topics that the yoga world finds important (anatomy, the history of yoga, etc) are covered. You should look deeper than that though. For instance, is a yoga teacher who has no additional training really qualified to teach anatomy? I would look for yoga teachers/schools who have people who are also Physical Therapists, medical professionals, or at least carry a degree in a related field. Wouldn’t you prefer to learn anatomy from an ex-doctor yoga teacher than ex-plumber yoga teacher (no oﬀense to all the hard working plumbers out there!)
2. Visit the studio A LOT:
Most yoga schools are housed out of a yoga studio. Some are run by the owners of the studio and others are not. Either way, check out the studio because you will be spending a big chunk of time there.
I had a dear friend who participated in a great teacher training at an aerial studio with a group of single, 20 year olds. It would have been a perfect fit if she wasn’t a thirty something with a spouse and kid who really preferred her yoga on the ground. In spite of the wonderful training, there were some times where she really felt like she didn’t fit in. Make sure the studio fits with your personal lifestyle and your yoga style.
Most important, find a teacher training that allows you to be yourself. The best yoga teachers are ones whose personality shines through. Some teacher training involves learning a set script with no variety in poses. It’s hard to show your personality that way so be wary.
3. Yoga is a Business, too:
While you are at the studio, ask around about the management. If the management isn’t running the studio well, you can probably bet they aren’t running the yoga school well either.
At some studios, graduates from the yoga school are first in line to work at the adjoining studio. If you want to teach sweaty fast paced Vinyasa, you might want to shy away from the studio that teaches mainly chair yoga.
4. Prioritize face to face contact:
I struggle to see how you can learn to teach yoga from behind a computer screen. I know some programs that combine face to face time with online and that seems like a good combo but I would err on the side of finding a local studio where you can engage with your teacher and other students for most of the training.
The teacher training experience can be transformative and having a cohort of people you see the entire time can really be a gift. There is a lot of adjusting, movements and physical manipulation that occurs when you are learning that simply can’t be done over a computer screen.
5. Practice Teaching:
Be sure that practice teaching is part of the curriculum. You should get ample opportunity to practice teaching at every step of the training. ACTUAL.TEACHING.TIME. I know that scares many students but it is better to get lots of teaching time in training than to graduate from training with zero teaching experience.
During training you will get lots of feedback that will help you grow into an amazing teacher. If you are nervous about teaching, that’s even more reason to make sure that teaching time is big part of the curriculum.
6. Watch out for yoga "cults":
This sounds crazy! But I have heard horror stories about people who took teacher training that included long hours of physically tiring yoga practice. There are stories about people being shamed, humiliated or taken advantage of by their teachers. Your yoga teachers should never bully or intimidate you. I’m not trying to scare you oﬀ.
Just remember that no matter how much money you spend or how much respect you/the community has for a teacher, you should never be put into a compromising position. Walk out, demand a refund, report the school, talk to the studio owner, do whatever you need to do to make it right but never stand for this behavior from anyone. And know that most yoga teachers are amazing people!
No matter where you end up, jump in to teacher training head first. It can be an amazing experience full of growth, accomplishment and fun but only if you commit to it. As with all yoga, do yoga teacher training with tons of curiosity, no judgement, zero regret and you’ll do great! Namaste.
Written by: Lora Brandt BSW, RYT