Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Spin-Oga

“Sometimes my yoga is just a walk on the beach or reading a good book.”  I distinctly remember Annie Carpenter uttering this sentence during my teacher training at Yoga Works in 2003.  The words struck a chord in that moment, but I don’t think I fully understood what she meant until just recently.  It was almost as if my mind identified it as advice that I would later need desperately.

 After over a decade of teaching yoga, I have to admit that my own yoga practice doesn’t always feel as good as it used to, either mentally or physically.  Don’t get me wrong~ I still love how strong and loosey-goosey I feel when I practice, and it still offers me the calm and focus I need to get through my day as a kind, patient, and productive person.  And, I love my students.  The problem is that, even after all of these years, I still find it challenging to turn off my “teacher brain” and enjoy the practice for what it is.  I find myself thinking, “Hey, I liked that sequence I just came up with, so maybe I’ll teach that tomorrow,” and such.   I don’t seem to have any boundaries between practicing for myself and practicing for my students.

Enter Fit On.  The spin place?  Yes.  I know—it’s an unlikely pair, spinning and me.  Our relationship, in fact, began shakily many years ago at my old gym.   I took two classes.  During the first one, the instructor screamed at me to add more tension to my bike.  My wimpy little quadriceps screamed right back, “Noooooooooo!!!”  The second class would have been a brilliant SNL sketch.   The bike seats back then were really uncomfortable (or maybe my butt was just bonier?), so a lot of folks wore those silly bike shorts with the padded crotches.  I didn’t have any, so I took a cue from that old Quilted Northern commercial and padded my underpants with a huge wad of toilet paper.  (A quick apology to my hubby here, who thinks I should never admit this story publicly.)  As I looked down 15 minutes into class, the strobe light in the dimly lit spinning room illuminated the bright white “snow” that was falling out of my shorts and landing gracefully all over the red carpet surrounding my bike.  What’s any self-respecting girl to do?  I oh-so-maturely fled the scene and never returned to spin class, of course!

So, last year, while complaining to a friend that I missed that “high” I used to get from running, you can imagine my reaction to her solution, “You’ve got to try Fit On!!”  Sure, friend, I’ll get right on that.  Just as soon as pigs fly.  Luckily, this particular friend has two middle names:  persistence and sales.   I took a class.  And I LOVED it.  The teacher was happy.  The other students were woot-wooting.  The music was loud and thumping and so wonderfully cheesy.   I pedaled at my own pace, with very little tension on my wheel that first day (ha! so there!).   I soon realized that spinning had become my Yoga~ or at least the perfect complement to it.  I still need my quiet time, and my breathing and stretching and meditation.  But when I get on that bike, I am completely absorbed in the moment, soaking up all of the positive energy in the room, pedaling away from all of my burdens, and loving the music.  Those 50 minutes are completely my own, and teacher brain, and wife brain, and friend brain will just have to wait. 

There is a phrase painted on the wall at the Fit On studio: “The Power of Shared Energy”.  When I first noticed it, I had to smile.  Over a decade ago, my yoga practice really began to blossom when I attended Seane Corn’s packed Sunday morning classes at Yoga Works on Main Street.  The shared energy in that room was electric, and supportive, and it made me feel like I was part of something larger than that space.  I get a little taste of that again~ a feeling I have really missed~ when I get on that spin bike, and no one could be more surprised about that than me. 

So, thank you, Fit On teachers, and Annie Carpenter, for reminding me that my yoga practice doesn’t always have to be about rolling out the mat and stringing together a sequence of poses.  Yoga is everywhere.  Even in the most unlikely places.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What is Yoga, Anyway?

I walked into the bank to cash a check last week.  A seemingly mindless errand.  The bank teller explained that, according to new security guidelines, he needed me to state my occupation.  After doing so, the teller replied, "Cool.  They offer yoga at my school.  I've been thinking about taking it, but what is it, exactly?  Is it like Pilates?  And what is Pilates?"  Ohhhhhhh, no.  Not this question again.  All I could think was, " you have about an hour?"

Let's set aside the Pilates question, since I'm certainly no expert.  After a solid decade of teaching yoga full time, I still have a hard time answering the "what's yoga" question.  It's not because I don't have an answer.  It's because I have several.  Asking a yoga teacher what yoga is feels like asking a relationship therapist what love is.  It's challenging to pin down a quick definition.  Frankly, I don't remember my response to the teller.  I muttered something about breathing, and muscles, and reducing tension, and connecting mind and body, blah, blah, blah...the typical reply that elicits a cross between a deer in headlights and a God-I'm-so-bored expression from the listener.  Yep, way to sell it, Gen.

Returning home from this "mindless errand", I couldn't stop my mind from wondering, is it even possible to define what yoga is in a short, 1 or 2-sentence answer?  I mean, if I could only come up with something fabulous, it'd make dinner parties and weddings a lot easier.

You see, yoga is a very personal, experiential discipline.  To those who have never tried it, it might be about "stretching" or "chanting."  To those who have, it means something different to each.  There's that famous saying, "What you see depends on what you're looking for."  To me, that's yoga.  What yoga is depends on what you're looking for.

By literal definition, the word yoga is Sanskrit for "yolk, join, unite"(thus the mind-body-spirit connection we all refer to).  For some students, it is simply a great workout.  After all, it strengthens and tones the muscles, improves balance, flexibility, and stamina, and upper level classes can be sweaty and athletic enough to increase the heart rate.  For others, it reduces stress and anxiety.  For still others, it's a lifestyle, providing all of the above, plus a road map for how to discover and live according to one's life purpose.  Heck, some folks may even go to classes to meet new people or because the teacher looks cute in yoga pants.  There's the anatomy and physiology of each yoga pose, the eight limbs of yoga, and therapeutic yoga, not to mention a myriad of styles of yoga.  So, if the bank teller asks, "what is yoga?", you see the dilemma.

After all of these mental gymnastics, I needed a little yoga (whatever that is!).  At the end of my practice, while seated and quiet--I kid you not--it came to me.  It's not perfect.  It's not necessarily all-encompassing.  It's not the answer to end all answers.  It will probably be tweaked many times over.  However, it's a start.  It's a sentence that I feel comfortable rolling off my tongue when someone asks what I do and what it is.  Yoga, for me, is both a physical and spiritual practice that simply helps me to feel better and live my best life.

There.  Done.  I think I'll let someone else tackle the Pilates question...

Friday, February 1, 2013

And...more playlists!

I have to express my sincerest apologies to students who have requested that I post specific playlists they loved~ the holidays were hectic, and I can't seem to remember which ones they were!  I will try to be better about posting this year.  In the meantime, here are just a few of my recent favorites, in no particular order...

Stillpoint 6:01 Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors Music for Slow Flow Yoga Vol.1
Light 5:34 Dr. Toast Gravity Is Quiet
Lebanese Blonde 4:47 Thievery Corporation Garden State
Govinda 5:47 Girish Shiva Machine
Dissolve 6:42 Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrorrs Bardo
Dream Machine (Downtempo Mix) 6:08 Mark Farina Air Farina
Mumtaz (DJ Drez Jahta Mix) 4:22 Bombay Dub Orchestra Six Degrees of India-A Six Degrees Collection
Stairway to Heaven 4:43 Rodrigo y Gabriela Rodrigo y Gabriela
Somebody's Baby 4:39 Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2
You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend) 4:13 Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite Get Up!
La Duda 9:38 OM 101 Ambient Hits 2012 - Best of Downtempo, Trip Hop, Yoga, Chillout, Meditational, Relaxing, Workout, Lounge, Electronica
Asatoma Sat Gamaya 5:58 Annmarie Solo Devotion

Raindance 7:33 Maneesh de Moor Sadhana
Infinity 5:13 The xx xx
Diamonds 3:45 Rihanna Unapologetic (Deluxe Version)
Madness 4:40 Muse Madness - Single
Prana Groove (Bonus Digital Single) 9:55 Stevin McNamara Prana Groove
Lone Star Theme 4:11 The Lone Stars All This Time - Single
Windows Are Rolled Down 3:57 Amos Lee Mission Bell
Within 3:26 Chris Joss Monomaniacs Volume 1
An Old Funk 4:35 Timewarp inc Down & Dirty Electronic
Dragonflies (Cantoma Remix) 5:42 Jose Padilla Dragonflies (Remixes) [feat. Kirsty Keatch] - EP
Meant 4:34 Elizaveta Elizaveta - EP
Jai Ma (feat. Suzanne Sterling & Joey Lugassy) 8:32 Josh Brill Earth Heart: Music for Yoga, Vol 1
Vinyasa 3:50 Peter Davison Adagio: Music for Yoga

Pilgrimage 2:59 MC Yogi Pilgrimage (Bonus Track Version)
Northern Lights 5:34 Lux Cafe Del Mar Vol 7
Umami 7:39 Mind Soup Love Songs for Gifted Children
Everything's a Wave 4:06 Chad Farran On Surfari Sessions, Vol. 1
African River (Instrumental) 5:45 John de Kadt and John Hughes This Rhythm Is Not Mine
Once Upon a Time In the East 5:35 Jah Wobble Shout At the Devil
An Old Funk 4:35 Timewarp inc Down & Dirty
Marching The Hate Machines (Into The Sun) 4:01 Thievery Corporation Feat. The Flaming Lips The Cosmic Game
Ocean 8:53 Martyrs of Sound Mantra Chill
Real Slow 4:53 Megafaun Megafaun
Love Is Strange 3:20 Everything But the Girl
Man In the Mirror (Acoustic) 4:04 James Morrison Man In the Mirror (Acoustic) - Single
Going to California (Live Acoustic) 3:11 Steve  Acho Covers Uncovered - Live Acoustic Concert, Vol 2.
Oceanic, Pt. 1 (feat. Ravi Shankar) 4:08 Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale Breathing Under Water

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