Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yoga and Injuries

A few weeks ago, this inadvertent yogini became an injured yogini. To better illustrate what happened, I whipped up this (extremely simple, clearly I'm no artist) cartoon in the ever-fabulous Rage Face tradition.

But ha-ha's aside, what's a yoga teacher/avid yoga do-er/extremely active city dweller who walks everywhere to do when she can't teach yoga/do yoga/be active/walk anywhere?

I'd like to say that after getting discharged from the ER, I crutched my way to the car, bowed my head in meditation, and found comfort in my knowledge that everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, my reaction was more "FFFFFFUUUUUUUU" than "OOOOOOMMM." But once I worked through the first few stages (Denial: It isn't really broken, it's just dislocated. Here, I'll realign it myself! AHHHHH!!!! Anger: Why do the dogs need stools anyway? Stupid dogs! Bargaining: Maybe I'll heal in only two weeks if I just do more Restorative Yoga! Depression: Might as well make myself a martini. This sucks. Everything sucks. I can't do ANYTHING!), I did finally reach Acceptance.

I decided I should take this time to slow down, literally and figuratively, since...well, I didn't really have any other choice. Ha! I decided to try to practice what I preach and live my yoga off the mat. And that means that in the same way that yoga is about non-striving on the mat (for instance, accepting where you are in a pose instead of cranking yourself beyond your abilities), I could apply those principles off the mat. So after subbing out my classes for the first two weeks, I started teaching again, and am trying to be OK with the fact that my teaching is only verbal right now (as opposed to demonstrating poses the first time), and I can't get around to make as many adjustments to my students. Would I rather be able to demo and assist? Um...YES! But is it OK that I'm not? YES.

Similarly, I am trying to accept that my own practice can be a seated practice for right now and that's OK too. So I've been doing what poses I can within my home practice, and finally, Sunday night, ventured out to my friend Diana's fundraising class for animal rescue, where I spent the majority of the time in Child's Pose with my foot elevated on a rolled blanket. Yes, this was pretty frustrating and I desperately wanted to jump up and be able to do a "normal" practice, but I also think it does a soul good to be humbled once in a while.

So that's the latest. Any thoughts? What have been your experiences with injuries? How have you dealt mentally/physically?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Etiquette on the Mat

A few general guidelines for on-the-mat etiquette. Please pardon the glittering obviousnesses—you'd be surprised how many people don't think these are, in fact, obvious. So on behalf of the rest of us…


1 & 2: Arrive on time and don’t leave early.

Arriving: If you absolutely can't be on time, be as polite as humanly possible when tiptoeing into the class a few minutes late. Catch your teacher's eye and gesture/ask if it's OK. If your class starts with a meditation, sit down immediately and wait until the meditation is complete, THEN set up your mat.

Departing: It’s disruptive to the rest of the class if, as they melt into a delicious, restful savasana, tired but satisfied after practicing, slowly thoughts still and bodies unwind…and then: Crash! You drop your water bottle. Jangle! You shuffle your keys. Ssssshhhhhllllpppp! You peel your mat up. Thump, thump, thump! You walk across the floor. Crrrreeeeaaaakkkk! You open the door. SLAM! It closes behind you. (Ditto on this as students come in late). How often does this happen in class? Too much.

If you absolutely must leave early, alert the teacher ahead of time. If you want to be really awesome, ask her if it's OK to leave early. Some studios/teachers do not allow this except in the case of injury or emergency. If you're sneaking out for food/coffee/a hot date, there is no need to lead her to believe that you are injured/having a heart attack/freaking out. She WILL wonder and worry, so just try to be as cool and considerate as possible, OK?

3. Don't plop your mat on top of someone else's.
Personal space, people. We all know that classes can get crowded. However, if others have taken the time and care to be early and stake out their favorite spot, don't be the jerk who plops down on top of them. Think about how you'd feel about that.

4. Clean up after yourself.
Mom was right on this one. Similar to above, live your yoga by putting your mat/props/stainless steel water bottle away. Guess what? Yo mama doesn’t live here and nobody wants to do her work for you.

5. If someone has no space/props, be generous.
Ever heard the expression, “Live Your Yoga”? Yeah, it means don’t come to class and bang out your practice and then mow over a little old lady, a dog, and a kid on the way home. Similarly, if one of your fellow yogis is looking for a place to plop their mat, be the person you’d want them to be: move your mat over and make room. That’s an example of living your yoga.

6. If you are a moaner, don't make eye contact with others as you do.
It scares the other students. If you are a hairy male moaner, this goes double for you.

7. If you are a sweat-er/excess sweat-er, don't sweat on your neighbors.
Yes, this has happened to me. Yes, I've recovered. Did I like it? No. Would you? Exactly. Keep your sweat to yourself.

8. Shower before you practice.
Or at least, shower on the same day. Or at the very least, the night before. At the risk of stating the obvious, nobody wants to smell you. My friend Jessica once told me that her favorite studio in Maine has signs that mandate showering. Wow. I never thought we’d have to regulate bathing, but apparently….

9. Say "thank you!"
You thank your barista. You thank the girl at the deli counter. You thank the cab driver.* So, why wouldn't you thank the teacher who carefully watches, assists, coaches, encourages, and guides your practice? It takes so little and it means so much.

(*Or at least I hope you thank all these folks! If you don't currently, time to get with the program!)

10. Do your best.
If you take the trouble to show up, take the trouble to try. This NEVER means working beyond your level, ability, or energy on any given day. This DOES mean tuning in to your body and giving it what it needs. It means really working your practice. And it means checking the entitled 'tude at the door (you're not doing me a favor by showing up), leaving your ego outside with your shoes (or better yet, at home), and simply being present on the mat. This means showing up and staying there, mentally and physically, for the duration of your practice. Listen, I give my students my very, very best effort, my most careful attention, and my highest level of care every single class. If I can do that for you, you can do that for you.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I am celebrating an anniversary. No, not a wedding. No, not a meeting. No, not a break-up. Well...perhaps a break-up of sorts.

You see, exactly two years ago I left my corporate job. After 13 years in corporate communications (marketing, PR, and publications), nine of which were in financial services, I had gotten progressively more burnt-out and disillusioned, until I was a miserable, depressed, angry little wretch with one wrist chained to my desk and the other clutching a martini at 5:01 p.m.

And then, in May 2008, I left. Just like that, I was done. Well, not exactly “just like that,” but that’s a post for another day.

So, “just like that” I was free! The corporate shackles were broken! I was a new woman! I couldn't wait to start my new life! Open the next chapter! Ahhh…Sweet liberation!

Then I realized: I had absolutely no idea WHAT the next chapter was going to be. I was finally free...but free to do what?

To combat the mindlessness and soullessness of my corporate job, and to deepen and enhance my decade-long yoga practice, I had enrolled in a yoga teacher training program and spent 15 months getting my yoga teacher certification at night and on weekends. In the wake of my leaving my job, and given my general lack of direction, as well as the fact that I had spent thousands of dollars to get certified, I wondered if now might not be a good time to give "yoga teacher" the ol' college try.

And now, here I am...two years into my yoga career and loving it.
WHY do I love it? Well, I'm so glad you asked!

I love it because for the first time in my career, I actually feel appreciated. When I see a student's practice change or evolve or shift--however subtly--I feel gratified. I know that I helped them to make that change or evolution or shift.

I love it because for the first time in my life, I’m actually doing something that I am genuinely interested in.
I love it because for the first time in my life, I feel like my work directly contributes to a better world. Happier, more relaxed people create a better world. Ergo, the more people I reach, the greater the subsequent consequences.