Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yoga and the Broadcaster

Today...I had an epiphany! I have four days left at my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Frog Lotus Yoga...and the light bulb is now full-on! The lead instructor called me out on my sanskrit...and my use of extraneous words, and suggested I should teach a little less with my hands. She continued by saying, she knows I'm a broadcast journalist and I have a command of communicating. She's right! I am a broadcaster and do have a strong command of communicating. I started to think...maybe if I had a grading rubric, I would be able to step up my Shanti! Immediately, the rubric I use for grading new military broadcasters came to mind. There are nine graded areas and they sure do seem to lend themselves perfectly to teaching yoga.

1) Voice Quality: Depending on the class you're teaching you need to make sure your quality and tone support. Additionally, your voice quality must change throughout the class. In the beginning a calm and steady voice invites the students to be present. If teaching a vinyasa class, your cadence and directness must increase as the flow-tempo increases. At the end, in savasana, once again a calming, soft voice is required.

2) Vocal Energy: Your vocal energy must match the class you're teaching. Broadcasters rely on finding the "mood" of the story to determine their energy. In yoga...it is the type of class. For a slow-flow Hatha class, NO ONE IS WANTING A CHEERLEADER! However, after 45-minutes of a Vinyasa 3-4, a little pep just might be what the doctor ordered. (sorry won't unbold!)
3) Word Grouping: Are you leaving your students wondering what is happening next, or do you formulate (and actually speak) specific directions? Ever taken the class where you were left in a precarious position due to the instructor being lost in thought? That's word grouping.

4) Stress & Intonation: Let's face it...sanskrit can be a bitch! Body parts tend to blend. Was that drishti, or samasthiti?

5) Communication of Ideas: Was the class completely esoteric, or were there some easily to digest pieces of information that you can gain traction with? How many times did the instructor say, "UM?" Were there any "crutch" words and phrases? How many times can I "really enjoy the stretch?" What if I'm not enjoying the stretch? You know when you have a great instructor when he tells you what he wants you to do exactly. "Lengthen your side body as you inhale and reach through the fingertips."

6) Articulation: This is always fun...Try being a voice and diction coach, then attend a yoga school with folks from all over the country. I'm pretty certain many of these students don't know what an "r" sound is! One of my favorite instructors is a guy from Vermont. His articulation would put a cringe in my neck at my other job...but is very charming in this yoga setting.

7) Word Recognition/Comprehension: Broadcasters have proper nouns, yogis have sanskrit and anatomy. Mispronounce someones name...lose credibility forever. Invite a class to explore Adhra Mukha Savasana...and you'll get the "what-what" look. (Adho Mukha Svanasana- Down Dog)

8) Overall Performance: This is pretty easy to tell how well you did in yoga. If students hug you, or keep coming back with more friends...then you're money. If you're all alone, you might want to review the first seven graded areas.

9) Following Instructions: Did you in fact just teach an all-levels class? If you did, you provided modifications for the novice and the advanced yogi in the class. Check your ego, maybe even ask for some candid feedback from time to time.

I kind of wish I would have thought about this on Day 1, instead of Day 24!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oh Yeah...Watch Me...I Can Do It Too!

This is me in Eka Pada Koundinyasana (variation) - One Legged Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya. I've never seen this pose before my morning class with Jennilee Toner. Next thing I know...The Prentender's where playing full blast and I was in this pose. Some of you might think that this is such an achievement. Really it's not. My body allows me to do poses like this. However, it's not to kind to me in poses like Virabhadrasana III. Yesterday, I was up in Astavakrasana which looks like this:
This pose is actually a lot easier than it looks. So what is my point? Two fold: 1) Everybody and every body is different. So don't look with envious eyes. 2) Self Reflection.

Self Reflection is really what I want to talk about. Too often in life, people try to one up each other. We've all had "that" friend who tells a tale that is just a little bit better than yours. There really is no room for that in yoga. DUH! But it does happen. My 200 YTT instructor, Jennifer Yarroeaks of building positive time in a pose. Some of you might know this as muscle memory. She also talks about building negative time. Being in a pose with bad form...builds negative time.

SO..."just because you can...doesn't mean you should!" - Jennifer Yarro.

You can take this to so many different applications. The first I'd like to offer is on the mat. Really listen to your body. Some days you'll be able to achieve full expression of all the poses..other's not so much. Maybe not even at all. Refuse the urge to see what the person next to you is doing. (There is a good chance she/he is doing it wrong too.) Lastly, DO NOT BUILD UP THE NEGATIVE TIME. I constantly come out of pose about 10-seconds before the teacher brings the rest of the class down. That's OK! In fact, sometimes I'll even go into Balasana - Child's Pose. Today, one of the instructors called it the "wisdom pose." Because those who are really listening to their bodies are wise. (I guess I might be one of the wisest person you all know...lol)

Take this offering off the mat. What do you do...because you can? Waste energy, gas, time, effort? This is a personal, inward question. Surely, there are many answers. I'm actually thinking about taking a month off the internets...just e-mail.

For the record...no one has farted yet!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Dairy...And No Cheese...It's Not What You Think!

So as many of you know, my loving doctor informed me almost three months ago that I could no longer have dairy. In fact, her words were, "you can longer have cheese, tomatoes, and peppers." To which I replied, "I literally eat cheese, tomatoes, and peppers...EVERYDAY!" Back to my current story. I have not had any dairy for nearly three months now. I've switched from half and half to soy creamer...which now I actually prefer. I've switched my whole milk for almond milk...which is also very good. For the past month and a half...I've also been meat free...vegetarian! Believe it or not, I really don't miss the meat, or most of the dairy...what I miss most is the CHEESE! I LOVE CHEESE. The picture is one of my all-time favorite, Asiago Fresco. I was at the store tonight and I bought some olives. They were right next to the cheese. My mouth started watering...and then I came to a yoga realization. Thus the connection to my yoga journey!

I'm thinking about asking for my money back because I really don't think the students are really all "fully present." Even though I'm not a fully trained yoga instructor yet...I know when a class is present and when they are not!

This pose is called Ananda Balasana, aka: Happy Baby. I can not fully express this pose because I have tightness in my hip flexors and my lower back won't soften to the floor. Thus, I'm not a good barometer for being "fully present." When students are "fully present" in this pose, (here comes the dairy connection) they more often than not...cut the cheese! Yep, that's right, fart, toot, pass gas, float...whatever you call it...IT HAPPENS IN HAPPY BABY! Except in my Yoga Teacher Training class right now. Come on...we've been here for two and a half weeks. Let it go! It's totally natural and it's kind of like burping after a good meal. It is MAD PROPS to the instructor. Show some love. I'm kind of sad! Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the class in some kind of solidarity has decided since I can't have cheese, they won't cut the cheese. If that's the case...then this is the best class EVER!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Find The Energy of the Pose

So for the past two weeks here at Frog Lotus Yoga, the instructor, Jennier Yarro has been telling me to "find the energy of the pose." Well today...I FOUND IT! I've been doing a lot of work with my core strength and going even deeper, with my bandhas. Specifically, my uddiyana bandha! This has been very beneficial to two of the poses I'm working on here: forearm balance, and handstand. Two poses I've NEVER DONE BEFORE. Today in class I wanted to see if I could engage my core and uddiyana bandha to flow from down dog into crane/crow. To achieve this you...well for lack of better words...need to "Find the Energy of the Pose."

I was warm, I was engaged...not I was UBER engaged. My fingers like octopus tentacles sucking into my mat. I turned my gaze between my hands, energized my bandha and lifted my feet and hips up to the sky, gently landing my knees high up on my triceps. Still engaged...and totally in the "energy" of the pose, my feet begin to once again lift. This was followed by my knees and hip. In a moment of sure child-like bliss I heard Jennifer say, "very nice Chris!" I was in handstand. For the record. I did not tell myself to do this. It just happened.

I'm pretty sure...that is "Finding the Energy of the Pose." I didn't have a camera on me...and I can't find a video of this, but here are two different videos. One from downdog to crane...the other crane to handstand. After watching these two videos you will realize what happened today on my mat. (FYI...after I came down with grace. I had to leave my mat and giggle.)

DOWNDOG TO CRANE VIDEO...CLICK (He goes to headstand...then kicks back to chaturanga dandasana)


Sunday, August 14, 2011

...And the German Judge Gives a 7.5 (Not perfect because of the dismount!)

Oh...those judges! Always finding fault. In fact, they get paid to find fault. Problem is...there are a lot of non-paid judges out there finding fault...sometimes that judge is YOU...and you're finding fault with YOU!

It's a vicious world out there. Between keeping up with the Jone's and trying to stay in-touch or at least up to speed with the latest trends, its no wonder we constantly judge ourselves. This judgment often comes to our yoga mats. I've been victim of it. My favorite example is when I first met my friend Lacy who was around 8 months pregnant. She was leading a class and I was totally showing off the entire time. Towards the end she entered into Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose. I'd never seen this pose before...and figured if a pregnant lady could do it...so could I. I crashed right to the floor. I got right back up and tried it again with the same results. Mind you...I'm a big dude. When I fall...it is loud! It was a very humbling experience and a perfect example of judging!

I instantly judged Lacy as a pseudo-capable person do to the fact that she was pregnant. I knew I was a stud, since I had just returned from a trip to Iraq where I was working out 2-3 times a day. The problem is two fold. 1) Lacy is a yoga goddess who has been practicing yoga for many years, to include Ardha Chandrasana. 2) I on the other had never practiced, let alone seen this pose and was full of the "look at me" mentality.

Our yoga mats should never be a place of judgment, rather a place of self-reflection. Lacy has a great way of explaining the power of a yoga mat by calling them a place that is "home" no matter where it may be. Think about that for awhile. One of my yoga teachers here Jennilee Toner explains it best when it comes to not judging on our mats; "There is no such thing as a perfect pose, only a perfect pose for you." In radio, my friend Bill Hickman says, "There is no right or wrong in radio...only what works and doesn't work!"

Anatomically, every body is different. Every brain is different. These are simple facts. So in reality, there really is no "perfect" anything! So...my "un-trained" advice...just be the best possible YOU...you can be! -Namaste!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Be The Observer Of Your Mind

When I finally picked a place to land and earn my 200 YTT (Yoga Teacher Training), I picked a place that had a good balance of asana practice (poses), anatomy, history, theory, meditation...and light on the chanting. There were several place some of my yoga friends suggested that were heavy on chanting and meditation...I wanted to avoid those places.

So far on my yoga journey, I've been more concerned with building strength and quieting the mind. (I have since learned that these are Koshas.) Of course having a stronger grasp of anatomy and some history/theory will make me a better yoga instructor...but come on! Really? Chanting and 30-minutes of meditation? Can't I slow my mind's activity with asana practice and the beloved Savasana?

When I arrived at Frog Lotus Yoga...I wanted to spend as much time as possible on the mat...working and as little time meditating and chanting. Until...I learned how to meditate. In the beginning, I had massive amounts of random thoughts coming and going...of which I remembered about half of them even after 2 hours of asana practice. My yoga instructor has been telling me to be an observer of my mind. Let the thoughts come and go, and still remain present as an observer.

Well today...I actually was able to be an observer of my mind. The past several days I have had very few thoughts during meditation; not sure if this is good or bad...or just is! Today, I had many intense thoughts. Thoughts and tasks of things I have to accomplish. MAJOR THINGS! So important at the time I really thought about stopping my meditation and writing them down. Instead, I resisted the urge, brought myself back with a mantra and focused on my breath. (prana...the life force of energy) Funny thing is...after my 2 hour asana practice...and even now hours later...I can't remember a thing that was so important in the early hours and early minutes of my meditation.

So...if you ever feel like trying on Mediation, remember to be an observer of your mind...don't be in your mind. Let thoughts come and go. Honor them, but let them go. Chances are, they are just random thoughts.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Try It On!

Jennifer Yarro is the lady who is running my Yoga Teacher Training here at Frog Lotus Yoga.
On day 1 while talking about the different options she was going to be offering us, she said, "Try it on...you might not like it yet, but try it on!"

Those words really resonated with me since I'm trying a whole lot of different things (on) right now. I'm basically a non-willing vegan, I'm not eating my favorite veg, and currently I'm asking my body to sit still for 30-minutes at a clip...oh and I'm not talking (Mon-Sat) until 9:15AM. Of course there is also the fact I'm learning a new language, sanskrit, and practicing yoga for 2hrs daily. That is a lot of things to try on...at one time.

But, I'm willing to try it on! Sure there are somethings that are "fitting" better than others. Yes, it is easy to try some of the things I'm trying in my little yoga-bubble...and I think that is OK! Maybe you can't make a "bubble," but you surely can "try something on!" Last night was a huge test for me. All of my classmates had delicious pizza, while I ate dairy free, tomato free, gluten free, and nightshade veg free pizza. (On my facebook page one of my friends suggested it was also taste free!) While my pizza was not nearly as mouth-watering as the others...it really wasn't that bad. Maybe even a good start for me to explore and try different variations. Check out the difference between my pizza and my friend's Melissa's pizza. I think her's might be a better "fit" for me.

So...I'm trying a lot of things on right now. Some I will keep, other's I may not. I'm OK with what it is I'm trying to do right now. Which one is the better fit for you? I'm no longer talking about pizza, rather something you've been wanting to "try on!" Give it a try. You may not be able to make a big yoga bubble like I'm in, but I know you can make a little bubble and try one or two things on. What's the worse thing that can happen? You stop?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Son Of Asana!

So...my intention was to blog every day I was here at Frog Lotus Yoga, but as Amanda Crocker will attest...ding dang ya'll this is a tough course. (I started following Amanda's blog when she went through FLY about this time last year.) I have written down about 15 different blog ideas, but really have no free time to post them. I have no wi-fi in my room, and really only have about 20-30 minutes a day of free time to actually blog...and 15 of them are during lunch. Most of you know I go to bed early, because I wake up early. Truth be told...I'm actually sleeping in a bit here...all the way till 5AM.

I wanted to share with you...especially those who either A) Think I'm Crazy, B) Know I'm Crazy, or C) Interested In What It Is I Am Doing...what my day looks like:

5:00 AM - This is the time I wake up. I enjoy a small cup of coffee and toast with almond butter. I think the hardest part so far is sharing my morning routine with 20 other people. I'm not use to people being up and around at this time of day. OBTW...this is also when I begin my OATH OF SILENCE! As you can imagine, this is not an easy task. This silence continues until 9:15AM. I will do some light reading during this time.

6:30 AM - I arrive for my morning 30-minutes of meditation. Right now we are only at 20-minutes. I basically straddle a bolster as if it were a horse, tuck my feet under and sit motionless for 20-minutes focusing on my breath and or a mantra in an attempt to slow and quiet my mind.

7:00 AM - I begin a rigorous asana practice for 2 hours and 15 minutes. It starts of slow and gentle. Focusing on joint movement and breath. Slowly it builds up energy/heat toward a goal of preparing my body for some kind of deeper pose. There is always an opportunity for wall work, where many of us are working on headstand, handstand, and forearm balance. (The later I was not able to achieve until coming here.)

9:15-11:00 AM - This is the time I have to make fresh! (Shower) I sweat A LOT!!! I have been taking my yoga towel with me into the shower and washing it too. I have my breakfast which has included mini-wheats and almond milk, an egg or two, and some days fresh juice. One of the students brought a juicer. FYI...you must try this. 1-cucumber, 1-green apple, and a little bit of fresh ginger. I usually have about 15 free minutes here where I check my e-mail on my smartphone, and review my notes in preparation for my afternoon classes.

11:00AM - 1:00PM - This is when we check-in on the morning's asana practice. (yoga practice) We also learn about 5 new poses and the assists for each of them. We are learning the sanskrit for each pose. So not only am I learning more about yoga...but I'm also learning a new language. (All in 30 days.) We also take time to teach the poses to each other during this time.

1:00 - 2:00 PM - LUNCH! I have kept my restrictive diet since I've been here. I suppose I feel better. I've not taken my medication...and I don't feel any worse that's for sure. So for those of you playing at home...I'm basically a vegan right now who can't eat most of the good vegetables, and I'm eating eggs.

2:00 - 4:15 PM - This is the time I'm learning about yoga theory, history, philosophy, and anatomy.

4:15 - 6:30 PM - During this is time I can either observe a yoga class that takes place here at Frog Lotus Yoga, take a class, (next week I will be able to assist in the class) study/practice the poses I learned, or run errands.

6:30-7:30 PM - DINNER! There is an incredible chef here who has been making some amazing food. I think I might be gaining weight on veg ya'll!

7:30- 9:00 PM - More study time. Each night my homework includes practicing the poses I learned that day. A writing assignment based on some kind of yoga philosophy, and a reading assignment. I also have to work on the three poses I chose to work on. I came here to quiet my mind so that I could have clarity. The three poses I picked where not based on my inability to perform, but rather their ability to add focus and clarity. I picked Adho Mukha Vrksasana (headstand), Salamba Sirsasana (handstand), and Natarajasana (Lord of the dance)

So as you can see...I'm very busy. I have Sunday's off, and plan to write a few blogs then and launch them either all in one day, or at least have them on the ready so I can launch them easily. Namaste!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Yoga Camp Day 1

Well...it was very stressful getting here...but I made it. At 50-miles in, my check engine light came on. Every time I went through a toll booth, or stopped, the car would stall. UGH! Then, I lost GPS signal in the middle of what felt like Nowheresville, Massachusetts. But I made it!

Frog Lotus Yoga is an amazing place. It is an old wood mill turned yoga/art studio. The place is MASSIVE! The furnishings are a perfect balance of eclectic and Ikea. The students are equally mixed. The age range is 20-60. They have traveled far and wide too. There is a student who was teaching in Kuwait, left there and spent the past month working on a sustainable yoga farm in Costa Rica. There is a student from the Netherlands, one from Milan Italy...and one who drove from Seattle. Right now I'm enjoying a cup a coffee with a student who has been practicing yoga as long as I've been alive.

I think this is going to be a good experience....now to work on calming the mind.