Yoga saves me from a bad date

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I said “yes” to meeting a 36-year-old photographer on a blind date.

It was painfully awkward, and another example of how someone who looks so good on paper and in picture can materialize into … well, the opposite.  What bothered me most is that he refused to look me in the eyes and talked so loud that everyone in the Starbucks could hear him.

Painful, painful, painful.  And yes, hilarious.  I’m sure there is a match out there for him somewhere, but it sure as hell ain’t me.

Yoga was my ripcord out of the situation — and an honest one.  I needed to erase the samscara of that awkward encounter with an asana practice.

Om.

Class Notes, Week 22: Juggling my life

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

This is a quote by John Lennon that used to hang in my sorority dorm room.  Back then, it was an homage to my favorite band, The Beatles.  The quote also was a reminder to not get entangled in the responsibilities, planning and academic neurosis that come with being a Northwestern University student — to the detriment of enjoying life itself.

Perhaps I should have this quote hanging next to my Buddha or Shiva statues today.

The past few days I’ve been working to plot out my time around the upcoming teacher training obligations, and it’s been a little stressful.  I’m entering an insanely busy time at work, with critical eyes on how I can help take a multi-million dollar business to an even bigger multi-million dollar business.  No pressure, of course.  I’m still working hard to carve out time for my friends and family — such as spending time with my folks, my close girlfriends and my adorable little niece.  And then there is the free yoga teaching (which I LOVE), the anatomy class, the apprenticeship, the personal practice, the midterm (all finished!) …

… and now training and practice classes are about to start up again.  And a new apprenticeship.  And video reviews.

March looks to be a real beast.  Three weekends are completely consumed with teacher training classes, Friday-Sunday.  Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that Moksha would pile these classes atop each other like this.  I, like most of my fellow teacher trainees, wasn’t prepared for this type of scheduling.  There is little opportunity for true balance when all of your weekends are completely consumed.  What was Moksha management thinking?  Is this part of the program “test”?

But I’ll inhale, and deeply exhale … and know I’ll get through it.  I always do.  The planning and plotting, as tiresome as it can be, and as annoying as it can be for others, is my way of coping — and making sure that I carve out time for myself and the ones I love.

After all, if I didn’t plan, I would not be off to Sedona in a few days.  Nor off to Santorini in June for a yoga retreat with Shiva Rea.

Inhale, exhale.  Inhale, exhale.  Inhale, exhaaaaale.

Sanskrit lessons with Nicolai Bachman

 

I had so much fun learning a 5,000-year-old “dead” language today.

I put “dead” in quotations because that was the way Sanskrit was described by an acquaintance who questioned the necessity of learning the language.  I challenged him on this point: It may not be used in everyday speech, but it’s very much alive in the yoga community.  And I wanted to learn — at the very least, so I wouldn’t get so tongue-tied trying to pronounce asana names.

Moksha hosted Nicolai Bachman, a renowned Sanskrit scholar, to help us understand the language, and ground the education in its application to yoga practice and chanting.

I bought a few of Nicolai’s books upon signing up for the Moksha teacher training program — but haven’t really given them a thoughtful read.  I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it; and other yoga books were just more “fun” to read.  I figured that these workshops would help me understand pronunciation, meaning and application better than self-disciplined book study.  Perhaps it would even inspire me to give my Sanskrit books and flashcards another look.

Perhaps.  I definitely feel like I have a better appreciation for the language.  I love that sound and meaning mirror each other in Sanskrit.  In other words, the meaning and/or emotion is conveyed via the sound, without necessarily needing to know the exact translation.  The sound and repetition of mantras will attract and ignite what you call out.  “You attract the energy of whatever you are chanting,” Nicolai said.

We learned the alphabet; how to use our entire throat in reciting the sounds; then put it  together, applying it to some “Vedic chanting karaoke” (Nicolai’s description).

The chanting was really great — and very different from the Sanskrit chanting in which I participating a few months ago when teachers from India visited Moksha.  I was lost then.  But today, I had a new confidence.  I could follow, thanks to the foundation and technicality that Nicolai provided.

How do you say “Hooray” in Sanskrit?

Class Notes, Week 21: Knowing when to step in

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

Tonight was my sixth week of apprenticing with Kim Wilcox.  It was a touching start to the practice: Kim’s first yoga teacher at Moksha, Gregg Mierow, was participating in his final practice at Moksha — her class — before moving to California.  It’s heartwarming how things come full circle like that!  A part of me was curious if Kim would ever be a student in one of my future classes — as she was my first teacher at Moksha.

Sentimentality and future forecasting aside, this was the first apprenticeship practice where I chucked my notebook.  No scribbles about sequencing, cues, quotes.  No note-taking at all.  Hooray!  Just a pure, real-time absorbing of the practice, Kim’s instruction and the students’ responses.  This was a rewarding release to embrace, finally.

One student piqued my interest the most tonight: a forty-something man who had just gotten off a 16-hour plane journey from India.  (I learned this jet-setting tidbit after the practice.)  He was not as limber or flexible as the rest of the students.  He wasn’t following cues all of the time.  He had a habit of hunching his shoulders up to his ears.  He was constantly darting his eyes around the room to observe Kim and the friend next to him, as verbal cues just weren’t registering.  He definitely needed some one-on-one guidance.  I felt like I had a good “project” in him …

But, on the flip side, I didn’t want to spend all of my energy on this one student.  And I certainly didn’t want to do so for two considerations specific to this student’s growth: 1) Perhaps making him feel inadequate by constantly helping him with alignment, etc.; and 2) Not giving him the space to explore on his own, make mistakes, achieve small victories, learn through independence.

It was an interesting realization/tug-of-war at play tonight.  I tried to strike an “appropriate” balance.  I had to pick and choose when was appropriate to step in and help.  When it concerned safety issues with alignment, I stepped in.  I also stepped in to make poses more appropriate for his body — i.e. putting a blanket under his hip for Pigeon and telling him it was OK to work on static Eagle pose without folding forward like the other students. Sometimes, he looked to me with a “Help me” expression — and I stepped in then, too.  Otherwise, I left him alone.

I wasn’t sure if what I did was enough.  Or, if I was “invading” his practice too much.  My intentions were sincere, of course, but I was still concerned.  And it concerned me that I was concerned — would this be a theme when I start teaching more?  Time will tell, I suppose.

In the end, however, my concerns tonight were wiped away: This student came up to me after class and expressed his thanks for my help.  His friend, too.

That was a very sweet reward.  He didn’t need to do that.  But I’m so glad he did.