Retreat ahead

Laura during Prana yoga teacher training
Serious concentration or bad red eye correction? Me in my Prana t-shirt on our last day of teacher training

This time next week I’ll be at Sklenářka in the Czech Republic on a week-long retreat. Seven days of yoga, vegetarian meals (eaten in silence!), workshops, and meditation in the middle of nature (meaning an isolated villa 130km east of Prague) with Shakti and Pepe from Prana Yoga College.

Much like tidying up before the cleaning lady arrives, I’ve been practicing more regularly in anticipation of the retreat’s daily yoga classes. My yoga practice has been pretty sporadic since moving to Munich, so this preparatory kick in the pants has been very welcome.

I suspect the retreat will bring some discomfort (whether physical, social, spiritual, or all three!), but hopefully my time on the mat beforehand will ward off the worst of the aches.

Many days, my practice involved a class from the Prana YouTube channel. I spent five weeks with Shakti and Pepe three years ago for my initial yoga teacher training, so these online classes feel a bit like returning to my yoga home.

Shakti’s consistent instructions (lots of reminders to breathe!) and Pepe’s subtle accompaniment are reassuringly familiar. There are no jolting surprises in the flow of poses – I know what asanas to expect and understand the sequencing. The setting is familiar as I spent many hours there during teacher training and in the months afterwards. There’s even a barely-on-screen cameo from Milo, Shakti and Pepe’s little dog who was so much like Sofie!

While I’m a bit anxious about the retreat, I feel certain that the comfort I’ve felt following the online classes will continue in person. I may not know what to expect in terms of the facilities or other students, but I do know Shakti and Pepe! And I know what to expect from their teaching.

I’m hoping that sense of yogic home-coming continues through the retreat with its silent meals, unfamiliar location, and bug-filled wilderness. And that seven days with Shakti and Pepe energizes my yoga practice long after!

Lotus in the mud

Rise like the lotus from the mud
Background photo from Adn! via Compfight cc

The first studio I taught yoga at, Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre in North Vancouver, is closing on June 30. While I no longer live nearby and haven’t taught there for more than six months, I acutely feel the sadness that comes with its end.

I took some amazing classes at Bound Lotus with some phenomenal teachers. I was honoured to teach incredible students and still keep in touch with a few. I attended many wonderful events and even slept over as part of an overnight gong bath! I spent hours there helping with administrative tasks, working with the founder on planning, or simply sitting at the tea table chatting.

Even my dog, Sofie, loved being at Bound Lotus. She enjoyed participating in meditations, relished the adoration she received from students and teachers, and eagerly came with my husband to pick me up after teaching. I know Sofie picked up on the energy of the space and felt welcome at the studio, just like students did.

Sofie relaxing at Bound LotusBound Lotus felt like my yoga home for many months – I lived just a couple blocks away and it sometimes felt like I spent more time at the studio than I did at home.  Although geographical distance now means I won’t notice its absence so acutely, I will certainly feel a void knowing that the space is no longer there.

If geographical distance isn’t an issue for you, I hope you’re able to get to Bound Lotus for a yoga class, meditation, or the Summer Solstice event before the end of June. Breathe in the smell of the homemade Bound Lotus tea chai tea, luxuriate in the wealth of colour-coordinated props, soak up the atmosphere… and maybe think of me.

I hope that the community will carry on in some form once the studio doors close and that something beautiful will come out of this sadness.

There is the mud – and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
Vietnamese monk and teacher

My wish for every that person who ever attended a meditation, practiced yoga, taught a class, drank tea, celebrated an event, or simply passed through the doors at Bound Lotus is able to rise gloriously and beautifully – just like the lotus from the mud. And my wish for Heather, the founder of Bound Lotus and the person who loved it most, is that whatever comes next is made even more magnificent through the grace of all the goodness that was Bound Lotus.

Got something to say?

Laura crouching to teachHave you taken a class I’ve taught and liked it? Would you recommend my classes to someone else? Have you already referred another student?

I’m hoping to continue teaching yoga throughout our travels and would love to have student testimonials to back me up! If you’ve been in a class I’ve taught and have feedback that would be useful for studio owners/managers who might want to hire me, please share it!

There are four easy ways to do so:

  1. Submit a comment on this blog post below.
  2. Post something on my Facebook page.
  3. Write a review on my YogaTrail profile. (YogaTrail is a neat new site that helps connect yoga practitioners all over the world with studios, classes, and teachers that suit them.)
  4. Email me directly and privately at laura@2ndavenue.ca (letting me know if you’re comfortable with me posting quotes from you on my website).

I may include your testimonials on my website in the future, but rest assured, I will never post your full name!

Your feedback will be fantastically useful as I woo German yogis! Help me bring some yin yoga to what seems to be a pretty yang culture! If you have the time and inclination to write me a reference as a teacher, I would really appreciate it 🙂

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.

Tell me what you want…

Laura with fellow yoga teacher Holly

I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few private yoga classes recently and I’m amazed how different it is teaching group and individual yoga sessions. A private yoga session is all about that student and their unique needs, which means I shape my teaching style much more to their preferences.

At first, I had a strong desire to fill the space with words and interact with the solo student all the time… but then it hit me that teaching that way is not going to work for everyone on every day. In fact, I wouldn’t respond well to constant attention from a teacher – I’d start to feel anxious and worried that my every move was being watched and possibly judged. I also sometimes want a really calm, chilled out practice and other times want something more energetic and invigorating.

So I thought about the questions I’d want a yoga teacher to ask me in a one-on-one session:

  • What kind of practice are you looking for?
    • Do you want to do more poses with shorter holds? Or fewer poses with longer holds?
    • Is the purpose to energize you? Or relax you? Or both!
  • Are there any particular areas you want to focus on? Or postures that really resonate with you?
    • Any areas that are particularly sensitive or need a different kind of attention?
  • What level of hands-on are you comfortable with?
    • Can I gently adjust you and apply a bit of pressure to settle you in poses? Or is verbal guidance better?
    • Are there any joints or areas you’re nurturing that shouldn’t be adjusted?
  • How much or how little instruction/guidance do you want?
    • Should I be quiet as much as possible? Or do you prefer reminders about breathing, relaxing, etc. and suggestions for deepening the pose or lessening the intensity?
    • Do you prefer a guided relaxation or quiet savasana at the end of the practice?

Now I ask private students for input on how they want to be taught. That’s one of the most amazing parts of solo yoga sessions – students can get precisely what they want and need!

If you’re lucky enough to get one-on-one yoga instruction, think about what you want to get out of that practice beforehand and odds are good that the teacher will be able to deliver.

In the immortal words of the Spice Girls, “Tell me what you want; what you really, really, want!”

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.