Archives for posts with tag: yoga

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been sort of burnt out.  I’m teaching three yoga classes a week, which is awesome, but there for a while, I was a little yoga’d out.  If I saw one more cheerful Kathryn Budig post on my newsfeed, I was going to barf. If I read one more kitchy list or crunchy essay on Doyouyoga or Yogananmous, I was going to sell my yoga mat and sign up for CrossFit. (Just kidding.  The CrossFit-ters would sniff out my Type B personality in seconds and put me in a protein shake.)

So. I’ve been sort of lying low. Keeping my social media consumption to a minimum. Reading a lot of non-yoga related books. Back at the gym, I’m running more, and even lifting weights. I had to diversify there for a minute.

 I’ve streamlined my classes so the “three classes a week” is not so overwhelming. Since my students range so widely (from the “I have an unlimited pass at the local studio” to “this is my first yoga class”, plus an array of injuries and levels of interest), I was trying to tailor each class to each group. THAT WAS FRIGGIN’ EXHAUSTING! Finally, I gave up and decided upon a MUCH simpler approach: Each week, I pick a theme.  Last week was backbends. This week is hip openers.  I write a skeleton of a class, and then tailor the class to the group. As it’s happening!! (That last part is really sort of scary for me!)

This is taking a LOT of improvisation. Many moons ago, when I studied acting, I loved improv. I wasn’t particularly good at it (read: I wasn’t all that funny), but I wasn’t the person who got tagged in and the rest of the class silently thought, “Oh, God no.” 

When I first started teaching yoga, improv was definitely one of my weaknesses. I wrote a class; I taught that class. I didn’t have enough experience, or confidence, to stray far from my trusty page. Not surprisingly, when I first started, some of my classes were total flops. I would see that some of the students weren’t able to keep pace, and I just panicked. I offered modifications, or props, or adjustments. Going completely off script was simply too terrifying to even contemplate.

Over time, and with experience, I’ve been able to – HAD to, at times – more or less scrap the class I walked in with and, instead, teach a class that my students needed. This little exercise, the themed week of classes, has really strengthened my teaching skills. It takes some time, as you’ve got to develop a well of alternative routes (as well as transitions! That can be a real bitch on the fly!), but it can be done.

As scary as it can be, I’d suggest that new teachers (who share my fear of having NO PLAN) try the skeleton approach. Workshop several different ways the class can go. Be ready to break it down – waaaaay down – or help students into wheel or headstand if that’s the direction the class takes and that is what your students NEED.

Be prepared to be scared as shit. And fumble a little. And screw up some cues. And maybe have a real stinker of a class now and then (if you learn from it, it’s not a total waste). Try to stay receptive and aware, and one of these days, you’re gonna surprise the hell out of yourself. 

Alright, Kathryn Budig and Kino MacGregor, I “unhide” you. I’m coming out of yoga hibernation. (Hally Marlino, you and your beer and cheese and balls-to-the-wall yoga, you were never gone!) 

Mainly I mean taxes and yoga. I’ve been spending the last month trying to get everything ready to go for tax season.

This is not going to be exciting, but if you’re a yoga teacher (especially a new one, especially if you made over $600 teaching last year), listen up:

1) Get thee to an accountant. A good one. Get references from friends or your studio owner. Go talk to them. Do you like them? Do you TRUST them? No lie, accountants can be strange folk, especially if you’re coming from the bendy, breath-y world of yoga. You know who’s even harder to understand? The IRS guy who comes to audit you if your taxes are all screwed up.

2) Document the hell out of everything. Start a folder, or an envelope. Keep every yoga-related receipt you get. Buy a new mat? Keep the receipt. Travel to a training? Keep the damn receipt. For everything. If you’re a hella-nerd like me, start a spreadsheet. Mmmm, nerdy goodness right there.

3) Know your write-offs. Um, can I expense mileage when I go to teach a contract class (2014 federal mileage rate was $0.56/mile)? Yep! How about those blocks I bought for my students? Indeed! Talk to your accountant. Ask everything you can think of. Then ask more.

4) Be organized and prepared. Don’t walk into the accountant’s office with a fistful of receipts and a smile. Catalog it, organize it, whatever works for you. Make their job easier.

5) Don’t get ripped off!!! It can actually be cheaper to go to an accountant than to try to suffer through Turbotax or spend all that time trying to figure out what in the fresh hell Schedule C WANTS from you. Shop around. Find a good price.

An IRS audit is a world of pain. We may not all know this from personal experience, but we deeply suspect it from a primal place in our brains. Keep an eye out for those 1099s and get ready, yogis. Find your accountant and give them a hug. It will freak them the hell out.

Namaste,
SY

I had a great New Year’s post! It was clever and even had some photos! I spent a long time working on it. Guess what? I didn’t finish it. Then it was New Year’s and now New Year’s is over and the post is irrelevant.

So now I’m back. I don’t have anything earth shattering to talk about or share. But I’m tired of my procrastinating, perfectionist ways so I’M POSTING ANYWAY, DAMMIT.

Ahem.

Okay, I lied. I do have three things to share. None of them really have anything to do with the other, but nonetheless:

1) I found the best natural deodorant in the world!! This also had its own post, long unfinished, of course, but you don’t need the backstory! It’s a standalone, awesome thing! Suffice it to say, I tried many, many, brands of natural deoderant. Some of them were better than others. Some of them, at the end of the day, would leave you with lavender-scented BO. Mostly, they just leave you with BO, the main difference being if the BO started at 11 AM or 3 PM. I hate being smelly! As an active person, I needed something that could keep up. And everything I tried fell on its sweaty, smelly face. Until Truly’s.

*cue herald of angels singing

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This stuff! This stuff works! Yeah, it’s weird smearing the stuff on you or armpits at first, but you get over it. Find it here. Do it now.

2) Infrared yoga class. I tried this tonight for the first time. I was a little dubious, I will admit. There are a number of very crunchy health claims about the power of this heat (clean heat, detoxifies you, fountain of youth, yadda yadda). I can attest to this: it rules. If you’ve ever taken a traditional hot yoga class, this is very similar but without all the smells and the humidity. If you have access, get on that ish.

3) Frankincense oil. I got this stuff in my little essential oil starter kit. I read that it was great to use on your face. Anti-aging and all that miracle stuff. I thought, “If it’s good enough for baby Jesus, it’s good enough for me!” And oh, my. I got hooked on the stuff. I slathered it on every night. It smells a little funny, but I got right over that.

One day, I went to tip my little bottle and lo! It was empty! I skipped to the website to reorder it, and nearly shat myself.

It was a heart-stopping $75!! For a tiny, little 0.5 oz bottle!!

Before I go any further, let me tell you: there are oily purists out there and I am not trying to discredit them. I do agree that higher-quality oils are a better product. However, for $75 for a 0.5 oz bottle, you’d have to convince me that this product was being sourced from infant tears on the lip of an erupting volcano in deep Nicaragua. (Then I’d say, “What! Who would do that to an infant?! Away, you deviant!!” Of course. Also, $75 is STILL too much for that stuff.)

So I found an off-brand. Something that’s mixed with jojoba oil. And guess what? (Cover your eyes, oil purists!)

It’s rad. And for a whopping $4.99 for a bottle, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

That’s it! That’s all I got! Happy New Year from this ace procrastinator!

I haven’t had a lot of time lately to write! I’ve been working two part-time jobs in addition to my very full-time job. Luckily, things have started to quiet down a bit. I’ve been feeling very impatient. With a schedule that was stretched so thin, I started to get snippy.

I didn’t have time to get on my yoga mat as much. I didn’t have time to write. I didn’t have TIME. But you know what? That’s some BS right there.

I had time. I was trading it for US currency. What little free time I had left over after work and teaching yoga, I decided to farm out to a part-time retail gig. The job itself was not awesome, but I met some great people there. At the end of the day, though, I was exhausted. I wasn’t hitting the mat enough. Yoga keeps me sane. I wasn’t writing at all. I enjoy writing.

Finally, the other week, I decided that it wasn’t worth it. The extra dollars in my pocket were not enough compensation for what I was ultimately losing. The Universe, call it what you will, usually knows exactly what you need. It tells you in subtle ways, at first. If you’re bullheaded like me, it takes some considerable knocking to get the message across. I wore myself out. Like a damned fool.

As soon as I decided to “retire” from my third job, I got an offer to teach another yoga class. Then another. I will be still doing the side hustle (the one I love), but it will be muuuuuuch easier on my schedule. Funny how, when I made a little room in my life, Awesome slipped right in.

On another note, the whole “time” thing is especially poignant for me tonight. A friend of mine – a hilarious, snarky, sweet man – is in the final stages of cancer. He is far too young, too bright of a spark, to be dimmed so early. As I sent thoughts and prayers up to his husband and family tonight, I thought a lot about time.

For me, these events have lined up in such a way that I will really give thought to my “time” in a different way now. It was a lesson I’ve needed to learned (knowing my bullheadedness, I may well have to learn again down the road).

Now that I have had a refresher on “time”, I plan to post more regularly. Weird stuff. Deoderant. Recipes. Essential oils. Yoga sequences. Guys, I’ve been gone a while. We’ve got lots of catching up to do.

Namaste,
SY

Two years ago today, I was in India! We were about ten days into our yoga teacher training and our yoga teacher, the incomparable, always smiling Babu, suggested we attempt 108 sun salutations as a way of celebrating the summer solstice. As we were practicing classical suriya namaskar (in which one round is actually comprised of TWO salutes, one leading with a right leg lunge and the next with a left leg lunge), we only made it through 54 rounds. Technically, we DID complete 108 salutations, but at the time it felt like a failure to me. Even though, at the end of the 54 salutations, we were all sweaty, some were shaky, and some had given up alltogether.

It’s not about completing 108 Sun Salutations, I realized this winter as I sweated and trembled through 108 sets of suriya namaskar (A! I have yet to attempt classical!) on a yoga mat far, far away from India and my wonderful teacher. It’s not some kind of physical challenge, some kind of “Yoga Achievement – Unlocked!”. Seeing something through to completion is important, no question. But this exercise is about something more than that. It’s about devotion. It’s about surrender. It’s about finding humility. Bowing down one hundred and eight times, no matter what your personal beliefs are, you can’t help but get deep, man. What or who are you bowing to? Why are you on that mat? Why prostrate yourself one hundred and eight times?

Maybe it is just a physical challenge for some. For me, it’s become a crucial ritual in my personal yoga practice. It’s a chance twice a year to get humble, experience gratitude deeply, pray for peace, and set intentions for the next six months. One hundred and eight times.

Happy Solstice to one and all!

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

I’ve seen the spinners at the gym. They’re the ones lined up a half hour before class starts, clutching two water bottles and a towel. They stand there patiently, shifting their water bottles from hand to hand, making quiet conversation. When the instructor arrives, they file into the room and proceed to pedal furiously on stationery bikes for the next 45 minutes while a slim young lady yells at them. LIKE A BUNCH OF LUNATICS.

Seriously, who does that?

Apparently, I do.

I recently joined the bike club here. In an effort to not embarrass myself on the first ride, I decided to try some spinning classes. While it’s not the same as riding my bike, it would at least get my leg muscles ready and add some much-needed cardio to my workout regimen.

It began easily enough. I shoved my feet into the pedal cages and tried a tentative revolution. Obediently, the beast sprang to life, whizzing the one non-fixed wheel with a satisfying mechanical purr. A knob at the base of the handle bars set the degree of difficulty.

The instructor, a perky brunette, cued up her music and climbed on her bike. “Hey guys, are we READY?” she yelled as a Lady Gaga song came crashing through the speakers at maximum volume. My fellow spinners whooped enthusiastically. I smiled nervously, wondering what kind of exercise class encourages battle cries prior to commencing. The instructor yelled out unintelligibly over Gaga. I caught snippets of what sounded like instructions, possibly important ones: “…then you…three positions….water…use your CORE…and then…stand UP…okay?”

“Okay!” we yelled back. I realized then I had passed the Point of No Return. There was no way of getting out of the class now without faking some kind of illness or injury. I hunkered down and grabbed the handle bars. “LET’S GO!” the teacher yelled.

We began spinning furiously. The first couple of minutes weren’t too bad, honestly. I spun happily along for the rest of the Lady Gaga tune. “HA! Who brings two water bottles to THIS kind of class?” I thought with very premature cockiness.

“Alright gang,” the instructor called out, “turn that knob a quarter up!” A quarter turn? No problem! I obliged, noting the slight increase in resistance. “Oh no! We’re hitting some wind!” she hollered, “Half turn up!” Some wind, you say? I laugh at you, wind! I cranked it up by a half turn. “Keep going,” she encouraged, “until it feels like you’re biking through wet sand!” The wet sand part was when I felt the smile evaporate from my face. My heart started to pound loudly and beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. I glanced down at my watch: Ten minutes had passed. TEN MINUTES ONLY.

“Keep it up, guys!” yelled the teacher. “Quarter up!” Again I complied, my thighs burning in protest.

“QUARTER UP!” the teacher screeched. “QUARTER UPPPPPP!!”

For the next ten minutes, I heaved my way though varying degrees of difficulty. Sometimes we were standing and pedaling. Other times she had us sitting. There was also this sadistic hybrid called “hovering” – not quite sitting but still, always, pedaling.

About halfway though the class, it dawned on me that no one was monitoring our bikes. WE set the difficulty. The instructor could sit up there yelling instructions at us all day long, but she couldn’t see how hard (or easy!) our bikes were set. Panting, thighs burning, I employed a life-saving technique I’ll call “the Phantom Turn”. When she screamed for us to turn the setting another “quarter up!”, I moved my hand, not the knob. Yes, it’s true, I was only cheating myself but I was okay with this.

By the end of the class, I noticed with a sense of rugged accomplishment that a few drops of sweat had accumulated under my bike. Looking around the room, though, I saw that most people (including and especially the instructor) had veritable pools of sweat under their bikes. I slid off the bike for the cool-down feeling fully humbled – just because I’m a fitness instructor I am by no means Master of the Gym Universe. In fact, if that class taught me anything, it was just how badly I need an ass-kicking cardio workout in my life.

I survived the class. I even felt pretty good afterwards. I still prefer riding an actual bike, outdoors, with no one yelling at me. But I WILL be there tomorrow, two water bottles and a towel in tow, ready to spin.

I recently purchased a car. This was a huge deal for me, as I didn’t have any payments with my old car. It hurts my feelings to think about this chunk of money leaving my bank account every month, but it had to be done. My old car was one breakdown away from sending me to the poorhouse. So! I have enacted some austerity measures in hopes of maintaining the extremely posh lifestyle to which I am accustomed (hahaha! Only joking about that last part – my goal here is to NOT live paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s it.).

Yoga encourages such behavior! Look at the yama aparigraha , or non-attachment! Before I bought this car, I had been thinking about doing a yogic Spring Cleaning anyway. I was going to purge my closet of things I hadn’t worn this winter, and started a purge of my Facebook friends list (for every person, I asked myself: if I saw them in the grocery store, would we both be delighted to see each other? If the answer was no for me, or I suspected it would be no for them, I un-friended them.).

So now I have to extend this principal to my finances. Lucky for me, one of my dear friends happens to be the amazing L Bee of L Bee and the Money Tree. Years ago, she dogged me to start a budget. “It’s fun!” She chirped. “You’ll get addicted!” I smiled and nodded, but tracking money has always seemed like a horrible drudgery to me, sort of like a micro version of doing my taxes. Every single day. So, I avoided it! I likely made some bonehead financial moves (ok, I definitely did), but it was fine! I wasn’t rich but I wasn’t poor. I was blissfully ignorant. Until now.

I finally started using Learnvest.com, years after L Bee’s urging. Know what? She was right! It IS addicting! They even have a nifty app I have on my phone! I also now religiously delete ALL the sale emails I get without opening them (I miss you, J. Crew!). I set a budget for myself and do my best to stick to it, regardless of the multitude of temptations that surround me (today’s temptation was a grey sweatshirt that says “I’m just here for the savasana” in sparkle letters).

It’s not perfect, but so far, this is going pretty well. If I come up with more money-saving tips (or steal them from L Bee), I will share!

I’ll close this with a wish for prosperity for all. (‘Cause wishes are still free!)

Vancouver is such a great town! I had so much fun, I nearly forgot to make it to yoga class. I DID go, though, at lovely Bloom, which was located about a mile away from where I was staying.  I took a fun vinyasa class with Maria.  It is so refreshing to check out new studios! I always find SOMETHING inspiring when I take a new class with a new teacher.  In Maria’s class, she guided me through a new way to find a deeper Prasarita Padottanasana (head to the mat, knees bent, then slowly unbend the knees with breath! why is this the first time I’ve seen this?!), AND she gave great assists.

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This was my reward on the walk home from yoga class. PRETTY DANG NICE!

I didn’t make it to three classes, as I had hoped. I did come home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks, and I’m glad. I have another yoga trip coming up at the beginning of next month.  This falls under the “do something that scares you” category, as it’s an Ashtanga weekend with a famous yogi and I am really nervous. A) I’ve never done a workshop with a famous yogi before and B) I am pretty new to Ashtanga and fear I will be the crappiest student in the room and hold everyone else back from attaining Ashtanga perfection. I know that’s a very un-yoga-like thing to say, but HAVE YOU SEEN THESE PEOPLE?!  I mean, look for yourself:

(I would like to mention that this video was done by the fabulous Tiago D’Oliveira, who I completed YTT with in India.)

So, yeah. I’m scared. But hey, I’ll always have Vancouver!

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Always up for a new “experiment”, I got excited when a friend of mine (who happens to be an extremely knowledgable and awesome wellness coach) offered to send me a sample of coffee and tea. On Facebook, she’d been posting about the wonders of mushrooms for quite some time. Sadly, mushrooms are one of those “vegetarian’s best friend” items that I just can’t get behind, taste-wise. However, I am always curious when someone I respect gets excited about something. She’s been really jazzed about the medicinal and healing properties of mushrooms for a while. I have to report, the coffee (I think it was part instant coffee and part mushroom powder, doesn’t sound very good but the taste was okay) was awesome! I drank a cup and I felt very alert, but in a very clean way (if that makes sense). Not jittery at all. I might be sold on this product:

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I’m interested in learning more about these magical mushrooms (not the “I’ve been following Phish since ’94, man” kind). Supposedly they are the next “big thing” on the wellness horizon. You heard it here first!

Another experiment I am conducting has to do with essential oils. Basically everyone at the yoga studio where I teach has been going on about these damn oils for months. I was extremely skeptical and hesitant, but I finally, tentatively, jumped on the bandwagon. I teach a restorative yoga class and I think I will be able to use some aromatherapy for some of my students who really struggle with stress and anxiety. I still have some doubts, but I will be sure to report back on my success or failure!

As the title of this blog would suggest, I am a born skeptic. Although I have an adventurous streak that leads me to try just about anything, I remain firmly planted in reality and sometimes wonder if I’ve gone off the deep end when I try these things (I get especially nervous when I catch a whiff of a pyramid scheme). The wellness world gets weird very quickly. I’m trying to stay out of the deep end, but the nature of teaching yoga lends itself naturally to homeopathic and holistic health. Lately I’ve been struggling to strike a balance. I’m off to Vancouver for vacation later this week, that should keep my inner scientist/skeptic busy for bit.

Check out my article at Doyouyoga.com!

Aw shucks, the nice folks over at Doyouyoga.com posted an article I wrote about yoga retreats vs. yoga vacations.  Check it out! 🙂