I wrote a pregnant momma meditation for Mala Collective that you can check out here: http://www.malacollective.com/blogs/mala-collective/18386884-blossoming-momma-meditation If you are on their site and like what you see type in "coraley15" at checkout and take 15% off on me:-)
As I reflected on my weekend driving south through the prairies toward the mountains, toward home, on Monday, every cell in my body twinkled with inspiration. My head was floating with ideas and refined techniques for my classes and workshops, but I wasn't flitting around in la-la land un-rooted as often happens when our creativity takes over full force. Instead, I was grounded firmly with a newly renewed belief in how I teach and in my ability to help people, and with a wealth of scientific and anatomical knowledge to back it up. I was rooted and floating. If chakras are your thing, you might say mine were perfectly aligned.
When I started teaching I had an un-wavering belief in my abilities. I knew what I did worked and I believed whole heartedly that the people who came to my classes would be able to find what they needed there. How did I know this? It's really simple. I knew how my practice felt in my body (and it felt damn good) and I had the confidence and the humbleness to know it may not work exactly the same way for my students, so I wasn't afraid to cue my class to take a different route rather than hang on my every word and instruction. Fast forward to two years after I took my first teacher training, as I find myself beginning the journey toward my 500 hour teaching certification, and one of the first things that the teacher says to us is that we need to let go of the idea that by-the-book alignment in a pose, or overworking one muscle by hitting the same or similar poses in a sequence is of benefit, that a "harder" sequence, a stiffer practice is "better" or more beneficial (to question if it is of benefit at all even), but instead to discover what things feel like in your body and to ask our students the same thing. To use that as our roadmap. To understand the science behind what works our muscles, what affects range of motion, what is truly beneficial and actually works to achieve balance on and off the mat. To treat each student as an individual with a unique body that may not work exactly the same as our own - or anyone else's for that matter, and to honour that individuality in ourselves and in our students. To respect ourselves and other teachers enough to teach as individuals, not carbon copies of a text book or someone else, because we aren't all the same and that, that is important and should be honoured. It was my teaching philosophy, being taught to me. And make no mistake, I'm sure the universe put me there to re-learn it, and just to make sure I was listening, to learn it from a very experienced yoga teacher swimming in anatomical certifications and with an amazing and enviable practice and ability to intelligently teach that practice, the strong aspects and the soft, to others.
There were a few things I had to process on my drive home. One was how had I let someone else's idea of what I should be teaching affect me so much? Enough that even after removing myself from the reach of the person's negative influence I was questioning myself in my classes - despite the universe sending me numerous opportunities and voices of support to remind me that her actions had to do with her insecurities, not with me. This was hard for me to look at. Somewhere along the way I had lost touch with that sure, confident part of me and had started letting outside situations and actions affect me.
The other realization that struck me was that I was still doing it. I had left the unhealthy environment, I had kept moving forward and continued to teach and be inspired by the world around me, but I hadn't found my footing on my own, I needed to hear someone else teach my theory on teaching yoga to me in order to feel validated, in order for me to get "back to myself" in my teaching and my confidence level as a teacher. I had needed external validation to offset the external criticism. I wasn't home yet.
But I was on my way.
Tonight I taught the first instalment in my Ignite Your Intention series. A large part of the workshop focused on the difference between a resolution, like the ones we make at New Years, and a sankalpa, or divine intention, a yogic concept usually assosciated with yoga nidra. The difference being that a resolution is often made attaching meaning or value to the end result and is usually motivated by a negative. A sankalpa on the other hand is propelled by love from the still, calm center that resides inside all of us. The focus isn't on finding happiness after achieving the end result, because the person making the sankalpa is already happy and content from within themselves. The purpose of a sankalpa is to manifest your deepest desires by focusing positive energy towards it. As part of the workshop we did a centering exercise to tap into that stillness and calm. It takes 9 breaths and you can do it anywhere, anytime. There are three affirmations that are key to this practice. I am enough. I am already whole. I am love.
Close your eyes and begin to let your mind follow your breath. Follow each inhale and exhale and let the process of mind watching breath take you fully into the now. No outside thoughts. No busy mind. Just your inhales and exhales. On your next inhale breath say to yourself: I am enough and on the exhale release any doubts, fears or negativity that arise with the affirmation. The next breath inhale: I am already whole and breathe out any doubts. The third breath repeat the process for I am love. Do it from start to finish three times. Nine breaths, each affirmation repeated three times. Stay still and just breathe for awhile before opening your eyes. 💖
Yesterday I bought a book about parenting toddlers. When my bubs was younger, I just followed my instincts and tended his needs. I felt like I was doing a good job, and was confident in how I was parenting. Flash forward to two, where what the parent needs and what the toddler wants don't always align, and where lately I find myself yelling, giving time outs and feeling like the worst parent on earth half of the day. It's a big deal to me to be parenting consciously, and by that I mean giving my son boundaries and teaching him how to function in society without stripping him down to a compliant little drone who doesn't feel confident enough to be himself and have emotions (good or bad). One of my worst parenting fears is raising a child who suffers from low self-esteem and ends up seeking personal power in unsafe/inappropriate/negative ways, and lately I feel like the parenting patterns I've slipped into are not going to help him develop the confidence or sense of self to avoid those behaviors.
I've always loved how life drops us in the midst of a big connected picture, if we are willing to see it that way, and this morning when I opened up my Facebook feed and saw a fantastic post on not feeling ashamed to share your accomplishments, I felt a theme growing. I can remember feeling proud as a kid and if I shared what I was proud about, someone in my large (and opinionated) extended family would usually undermine my 'accomplishment' by taking me down a notch. Enough so that as I grew older I would be surprised when those same relatives would give me a compliment. Why was I surprised? Because as a kid when someone crushes those little moments of pride (presumably in a well-intentioned attempt to keep you from growing up into an egomaniac) it strips away at the self-esteem that builds when a child is allowed to feel good about themselves. It's a pattern I'm gong to invest a lot of energy into not repeating with my son, because I know that it didn't serve me as a child, a teen, or an adult and I believe that he deserves better than that.
It took a long time to re-build my thoughts and self-concept to not include those nagging feelings of being not good enough all the time. Unfortunately not everyone gets out of these patterns, and the unhealthy quest to feel in control and have a sense of personal power continues throughout adulthood. Take the debate over yoga selfies. Lately there have been a myriad of yoga experts who have been quoted debasing the practice of sharing yoga selfies. I admit, at first glance I could concede to some of their points: yoga isn't for show, yoga selfies feed the ego, yoga selfies aren't about yoga, they're about showing off. But, as I began to search 'yoga' on Instagram, I quickly realized there was a lot more going on than yoga egos running wild. In fact, the community of IG yogis may be living a more authentic form of yoga than the experts busy shaming them. It's easy to judge the yoga challenges and picture of poses without bothering to really take a look at what these yogis are doing, but if you did, you wouldn't see a bunch of ego maniacs in perfect poses holding contests meant to inflate their egos and seeking internet fame. Instead you would find a group of mostly self-taught yogis, many of them moms, most with completely self-taught home practices that range from strong to brand new, who have built a beautiful and supportive community where they share in each others triumphs, goals, knowledge and growth. The challenges they host aren't meant as contests for them to show off, they are meant as fun ways to get each other on the mat every day and to help each other grow their respective practices. It's easy for other yogis to judge them, particularly with the ready made threads of yoga philosophy that can be spun in a way that casts a negative shadow, but the reality is that those "experts" are just pushing another down to satisfy their own ego (they didn't turn the chance to be quoted in an article down - did they?) Their judgements have everything to do with themselves and not a whole lot to do with the selfie shooting crowd.
My new parenting book says "empathy opens the mind to learning." (Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years). If we can relate to others, rather than tuning in to our pre-conceptions or samskaras, and stop attaching what we think they need to the situation, we may open up the opportunity not only for our own concepts and understanding to grow, but for them to continue to discover and grow themselves too. I think it's an opportunity we all deserve.
Lately I've been feeling low on energy and as a result my writing and drafting process has slowed right down. I spent about a week into this low energy cycle chastising myself for my lack of motivation and creativity, and then re-chastising myself for having negative self-talk. Then I wised up and let go of worrying. We all have peaks and dips in our energy levels and it's a waste of the energy we do have to worry about not having enough.
About the same time that I started to get wise to the error of my ways, opportunities started to pop up to nurture my creative side through avenues other than writing. A friend needed help with an audition piece for her son. Choreography is still one of my favourite ways to express myself. I feel like I've tapped into a universal creative consciousness every time I start to piece together a routine. It's the same feeling I get when I create a flow class, but a different means to the end.
And then my friend Emily invited me to an art class fundraiser she was organizing. I haven't drawn or painted for years - save for a meditative sketch we did as part of teacher training. I was amazed at how drawn into the creative process I got while painting. It was such a great experience, I think I'm going to invest in some paints and canvases to keep nurturing that avenue of creativity for myself (and my son, who got inspired by my painting and created a beautiful finger painting the very next day:-)
My writer's block isn't quite gone, and with the dreary weather we've been having, despite nurturing my practice, my creativity, and being sure to carve out some me time, my energy levels are still low (it actually took a lot for me to get on writing this blog post) but that's okay. I'm still not giving in to negative self-talk and I'm happily enjoying time to explore other creative outlets in the mean time. How do you nurture your creativity? Do you have methods to break through blocks or energy lows or do you simply ride them out and embrace them?
I was subbing a class on Monday, and there was something off about it. The postures, my tone of voice, the atmosphere, they were all comparable to any other yoga class I've taught. I just felt different. Flat, for lack of a better word. When I thought about it, I realized a few things. When I first started at EYS I made a commitment to myself to make each and every class I taught an experience. I wouldn't say that I've let that go, but where I live, in order to be able to teach the amount of classes I'd like to in a week, I've had to accept a lot of substituting jobs. Now, don't get me wrong, this post isn't about bagging on the perils of subbing vs. having a set schedule, and I've absolutely loved the chance to teach such a variety of classes, but subbing, especially at the last minute, requires adaptability. And maybe I'm not as well suited to that as I could be. Does that mean that my classes are terrible when I sub? No, not by a long shot. Some of the best classes I've taught have been classes I was subbing. What it does mean is that if my subbing schedule is getting busy, I need to pay attention to and honour my needs and keep myself on an even kilter. I owe that to my students, myself and my friends and family.
One of my yoga teachers uses a sufi quote that goes something like "do not try to draw from your well when it runs dry, instead draw from it when it overflows." I realized during that class that lately I have been drawing and drawing and drawing, but not replenishing at all. I've been busy caring for a sick two year old, ignoring my own cold, missing my favourite Saturday morning class with Heather Ivany and allowed my home practice to become inconsistent. I've given myself every excuse under the sun while doing so - from "I'll get back to it once the little guy is feeling better" to "all this subbing just throws off my plans for the day" to "this cold just really wears me out." But the fact is, whether it is true that life gets chaotic, we get ill, or plans fall apart, that there is only one cause for not tending to our practice and staying inspired, and that cause is ourselves.
The experience of teaching is, for me, a symbiotic one. There is a give and take between student and teacher that creates the class. So, on Monday, I found myself asking whether I have been holding up my end of the bargain. And the answer was that I wasn't. The experience I strive to create in my classes includes the sharing of yoga philosophy, inspiring music, creative flows or sequencing that fulfills the students and leaves them relaxed and rejuvenated. There isn't a set formula for this experience. It comes from the teacher's inspirations, practice and energy and in turn the students feelings and energy complete it. And I was dropping the ball on fulfilling those aspects of my life and practice. I was letting the excuse of un-scheduled classes and a busy home-life disrupt my commitment to my practice, my health and my "me" time, and as a consequence, I wasn't bringing inspiration, a strong personal practice or energy to my teaching.
So what is the solution? Teach less or take on fewer subbing jobs? No. I love to teach and teaching keeps me happy, fulfilled, purpose-full, and, when I'm not using excuses to drop the ball, very accountable to living my yoga and to my practice. I recognized the feelings I had during class, felt them more deeply as several of the students complimented me (not because I didn't appreciate them, but because I felt in my heart that if I didn't make a change, I wouldn't be able to keep giving them the classes they deserve) and I knew that the time to be pro-active was now. So I stayed and took the class following mine. I didn't worry that I needed to eat, or that there were things at home I needed to do. I tended my inner fire and began to replenish my well. It wasn't the be all end all, I've still got work to do, but it was a step back in the right direction. The well bottom is now damp, instead of dry and the well keeper a little wiser, more vigilant, and a better yogini after the lesson. Namaste.
Today I missed getting to the vinyasa flow class I was planning to take. I've also been subbing a lot lately, and with a few writing commitments and a very busy two year old to pre-occupy my time, this isn't the first class I've tried to get to and missed. To be honest, my home practice has been splotchy the last few weeks too. On any other day, this might have gotten me down. But today, having had the theme of balance on my mind lately, I took a different approach. You see, the things that filled my morning are also things I haven't been getting done lately, so maybe this was the universe's way of striking a balance. Rather than thinking about missing class as a negative affect of events this morning, I thought about the fact that, even though it wasn't what I'd had planned, some other things that needed my attention got my attention. The next thing I did was to keep my promise to myself that I was going to take some time this morning for my practice. So I went upstairs to my yoga space and did a practice. I took time to journal while I was there too. Was it an hour long, guided practice, with a teacher I love, complete with time out of the house to boot? No. But it was fantastic all the same.
Yoga teaches us that if we change our view, everything changes, and today I was reminded of how true this is. I could have gotten bogged down with thoughts about how my day didn't go as planned, chastised myself for letting something get in the way of going to class, and worried that the classes I'm scheduled to teach this week would suffer because they always seem to have that little something extra special when I'm feeding my inner fire through my personal practice. But instead, by going with the flow, I discovered that if we approach life with an open mind we can see the good just waiting to be discovered in every twist and turn, even though it might not be the while looking at the view we had wanted to see.
After finishing my teacher training and beginning to teach regularly I felt, and continue to feel, a renewed commitment to living my yoga. The relationship and commitment I am cultivating with my students bears a certain level of responsibility, and living my yoga is a part of that. That isn't to say that I expected, or expect, myself to be perfect, but I did start to, and do, hold myself more accountable to living my satya or truth. This renewed commitment has come with a few victories, and more than a few fumbles, not to mention some serious heart-to-heart conversations with other teachers, and a newly renewed awareness of how important it is to have compassion towards oneself.
Just recently I subbed a class for a very experienced teacher. The class was full and the majority of students were regular attendees. As class ended that morning I found myself feeling self-conscious and berating my teaching, rather than experiencing the calm, lovely energy I usually do after teaching. I had gotten mixed up directing what side to move on at one point, and I felt as though I was stumbling with my words a lot. As the students filed out , some were vocal about enjoying the class. In fact, I had many lovely compliments and a few students who couldn't seem to say enough, but the nagging feeling that I had somehow not done a ''good enough'' job pervaded. It seemed punctuated by those students who scarcely muttered a goodbye as they headed out the door.
After teaching the next day, I called the studio manager to check whether I had entered a purchase into the computer correctly. She asked how class had gone and I blurted out ''Good, I think. Much better than yesterday!'' She responded by saying how I'd had a lot of nice compliments the morning before and that she had gotten the impression that class had gone really well. I relayed my thoughts about getting mixed up on sides and feeling tongue tied. I also mentioned that I noticed some people leaving without saying much. ''That stuff happens to everybody,'' she responded, ''and there are some people who do just leave after a yoga class.'' There it was, laid out simply and matter-of-factly. As I hung up the phone I realized that my ego was the problem the day before, not my class.
I'd come to rely on those students who breeze out of class aglow and softly smiling with thank yous and compliments galore being purred in my direction to gauge how a class went, or rather to allow me to feel good about myself as a teacher. Rather than listening to my inner voice and letting my confidence come from within, I'd fallen into the trap of seeking outside validation. When I first started teaching I was surprised and flattered at the way most people would come out of the class and say so many nice things, but somewhere along the way I stopped being surprised and flattered and started to expect that wonderful feedback. When it didn't come, or I was worried that it wasn't coming as much as it should be, I started to take it personally. My ego had bamboozled me.
I subbed that class again this weekend and though I caught myself checking the registration a few times to see if anyone from the week before was coming back, I was AWARE that I was searching for outside validation by doing so, and I decided to approach the class in a way that would cultivate my teaching confidence from within rather than perpetuate the behaviour. I taught the class without a lesson plan. I had an idea about the peak pose and where the class was heading, and I had a theme to go along with it, but I had nothing but my intuition and knowledge as a teacher and a student of yoga to guide me through the class. When class ended I floated out of the room without a worry in the world. Some students came out smiling out thank yous and other compliments, some rushed off to their day barely looking up on their way out, but none of that mattered this week. This week I too was glowing from within, and no outside validation was needed to get me there.
I'm just a yogi in the mountains of British Columbia. If you've found your way to this site, it's very likely that you are too. Here you'll find information about my upcoming classes, workshops and retreats via the link to my website, as well my thoughts on yoga philosophy, what music I'm pumping in class, pictures, videos and other news about yoga and spirituality.