I totally cheat at yoga

This article about being a Yoga sinner from Recovering Yogi really stuck a cord with me. The author/yoga teacher suggests doing yoga poses while watching trashy TV (Millionaire Matchmaker, to be precise) and her student responds: ”Doesn’t that kind of go against the idea of yoga?”

I think the idea of yoga depends a lot on the motivation behind it.

Some people practice yoga almost purely for physical reasons, some find spiritual solace or emotional well-being. Some just like the chance to lay still in relaxation at the end of a class without anyone poking them. These motivations vary greatly, can change frequently, and certainly affect how students practice.

For example: I generally like tuning into my breathing, letting my brain quiet, and connecting with my body during a yoga practice. Recently, however, I’ve been feeling off and haven’t been comfortable dwelling in my own head. A quiet meditative yoga practice will not work for me right now – I need something to get me out of my thoughts. So I’ve been ‘cheating’ and doing gentle yin postures at home while listening to Vinyl Cafe podcasts.

I’m getting the physical benefits of stretching and relaxing my muscles, but instead of coming into a meditative state (which probably wouldn’t happen right now anyway), I get to escape into the Vinyl Cafe world and laugh hysterically as Stuart recounts Dave’s adventures taking care of six dogs. I suppose I could even call it laughter yoga 😉

‘Cheating’ and being comfortable in my yoga practice is far more important than trying to force myself into something that isn’t going to work.

A dear friend gave me an awesome magnet a while back (shown on the side of our fridge above) that says “I totally cheat at yoga.” It reminds me to wholeheartedly embrace that idea and ensure my practice suits whatever motivation is getting me onto the mat in the first place!

Trifling aesthetics

Stubbly armpits, mis-matched socks, chipped toenail polish, discordant top & bottoms, scaly heels, unshaven legs… all things that as a yoga student make me self-conscious; all things that as a yoga teacher I don’t notice about students.

It hardly even registers if the leg I’m adjusting is in-between waxes or if there’s a blinding clash between pieces of clothing – and I certainly don’t think that anyone takes their practice less seriously or is less committed when I do notice these supposed faux pas! (Side note… is there a plural to ‘faux pas?’)

I suspect most yoga teachers are the same and care more that students are practicing, than whether they look like they stepped out of a Lululemon ad. Good teachers will be checking if students are engaging the right muscles and not endangering their joints, rather than critiquing personal grooming or clothing choice.

As long as a student’s basic hygiene is okay and their clothing isn’t insanely revealing (even teachers can get distracted by nip slips) or constricting, anything goes. Don’t feel bad about coming to a yoga class wearing hole-y sweatpants or with Julia-Roberts-inspired armpits … just get to practice!

And don’t let a sweat-marked shirt make you feel awkward stretching your arms above your head. Odd are good that the teacher won’t even notice and other students are likely more too focused on their own practice (or their own sweaty armpits) to notice what’s going on with you.

These things are just trifling aesthetics… although that doesn’t mean I haven’t allowed my own less-than-smooth armpits to keep me from fully coming into a pose. I’m still a student after all 🙂

Balancing

Despite the change in weather and return of the rain, I’m no longer feeling the unsettledness of Spring. My plea to bring the balance worked!

Somehow, the warmer nights and a string of dry sunny days have brought me a sense of equilibrium. I’m feeling less drawn to twisting and side bending poses in my yoga practice and while planning the classes I teach. Balancing postures (including tree, pictured at right) have taken the place of those side bends and twists.

I’ve been battling a low-grade cold that’s taken up residence in my head, so it’s a bit strange that I’m inclined to do balancing postures when my sense of balance is compromised by blocked ears. But something about balancing postures is calling to me loud and clear right now.

Tree (vrksasana), warrior III (virabhadrasana III), eagle (garudasana), standing splits (urdhva prasarita eka padasana), half moon (ardha chandrasana), dancer (natarajasana)… these are the poses I keep finding myself holding in my personal practice and the ones I’m being drawn to as I plan my classes.

Starting next week, Autumn is taking over the Wednesday night hatha and core flow class at Body Harmony. I’ll miss teaching that class, but will be back teaching with a core-centric focus on June 21 when I take over Rachel’s 4:30pm class at Body Harmony.

If you’re also feeling a sense of equilibrium – or if you’re looking to find it! – check out my schedule and come join me for a balanced (and balancing!) class.

Stop being unhappy with yourself

Randi from Samana Wellness posted the image below (originally from Just Smileology on Tumblr) yesterday and it resonated with that perpetual need to overcome self-doubt. On a beautiful sunny day, when the weather feels supremely confident, it feels very appropriate.

I’ve added capital letters and more punctuation because I couldn’t stand typing it out otherwise. That’s one of those quirks I love about myself 😉

Hey you.

Yes, you.

Stop being unhappy with yourself. You are perfect.

Stop wishing you looked like someone else or wishing people liked you as much as they like someone else.

Stop trying to get attention from those who hurt you.

Stop hating your body, your face, your personality, your quirks. Love them. Without those things you wouldn’t be you. And why would you want to be anyone else?

Be confident with who you are.

Smile. It’ll draw people in.

If anyone hates on you because you are happy with yourself, then you stick your middle finger in the air and say “Screw it.”

My happiness will not depend on others anymore.

I’m happy because I love who I am. I love my flaws. I love my imperfections. They make me ‘me.’ And ‘me’ is pretty amazing.

Here’s hoping that everyone finds that amazing confidence to love themselves just the way they are!

Bring the balance

Maybe it’s because it’s the start of Spring or maybe it’s because the weather has been franticly changing (sun, hail, wind, rain, and back to sun within an hour)… whatever the cause, I’m feeling unbalanced.

I’ve noticed that I’m sub-consciously trying to bring myself into balance by doing lots of side bends and twists in my yoga practice. Stretching my rib cage, spiraling my spine, sinking into the sometimes forgotten muscles along my side body… and, of course, the poses I lean towards in my personal yoga practice generally spill over into the classes I teach.

So look forward to more of a side-body focus in my classes until the weather settles down and things come back into balance again. Take a look at my teaching schedule to see when you can join me for a twisting, side bending class.

Coincidentally, the title of this post is the name of my friend Tim’s company. Bring the Balance is the home of Tim’s adventures teaching and practicing yoga, meditation, reflexology, and reiki. I’ve had the honour of doing two yoga teacher trainings with Tim and he’s a truly amazing person. Check out his website (including his ever-interesting blog!) and learn more about his integrated healing practices.

What’s wrong with a little vanity?

The current 40-Day Meditation Challenge at Bound Lotus focuses on the third chakra (physically centred somewhere between the navel and solar plexus) and involves a fair amount of contracting the abdominal muscles. One of the teachers leading the meditation was half-joking about measuring her waist at the start of the 40 days and then again at the end to see if all that ab work meant a tauter tummy. She then sheepishly apologized for her vanity.

Laura's vanity shot - looking like a movie star

But what’s so wrong with a little vanity?

Following the assumption that we’re biologically programed to reproduce and keep the human race going, we’re hardwired to want to be attractive. There have been all kinds of studies showing that conventionally attractive people make more money and are more likely to be considered successful.

For better or for worse, we exist in social groupings and we’re happiest in those groups when we fit in and feel valued. Being sensibly vain demonstrates a normal human need to be accepted by others and flourish within our social groups.

There’s certainly a difference between a little vanity and becoming self-absorbed and shallow… but there’s no need to apologize for wanting to be attractive and accepted.

The photo I’ve included with this post shows off my own vanity. I think I look like a movie star 🙂