Tuesday, April 22, 2014

May I Teach Humbly

Photo by the talented Justin Kral.

Even when I doubt myself, I can inspire others. 

Even when I am suffering, I can give.

This is the path of teaching.

Finding Your Voice As a Yoga Teacher (Plus, A Giveaway!)

Photos courtesy of Caren.

This has been a big week in my yoga teaching journey… I taught five classes! Two of them were at my beloved home studio, and it feels amazing to be able to share yoga with the community I love so much. I’m learning to be more open, more vulnerable, more present with my students, again and again offering up the practice. I’m also finding new cues, exploring what words are effective for getting yogis in and out of the postures. Teaching is an incredible journey.

Today I have a lovely guest post from yoga teacher and writer Caren Baginski. She offers her inspiring story about how she found her true voice as a teacher.

Finding Your Voice as a Teacher
By Caren Baginski

Finding Your Voice (A Post for Yoga Teachers)

I'll never forget my first yoga class as an official, paid instructor. I meticulously wrote down my sequence, showed up early at the recreation center, unrolled my mat and waited. Waited for anyone to join me, while secretly hoping no one would.

The butterflies I felt that day lasted a whole year while I discovered my voice as a new yoga teacher. The students were patient and new to yoga themselves, which helped when I flubbed a cue or accidentally had them flowing through the same side, twice. Apologies were always met with kindness.

As cueing became second nature, I started to worry about the Dharma message — that epic "Why are we here on the mat" opus I felt compelled to deliver each class. With so much to say and so many ways to say it, my message frequently got lost somewhere between Child's Pose and Savasana.

The difference between my teaching then and four years later is that I started to think like a storyteller… and I started to tell my own story.

Discovering your voice as a yoga instructor is a lifelong metamorphosis. One that begins when you realize you don't have to teach like anyone else, and instead can teach like YOU.

Here are three things I recommend to speed up that process.

1. Find the theme in the poses.

When I started teaching how each yoga pose makes one feel, in addition to the physiological benefits, my teaching took on a new tone. Many of us practice yoga specifically because of how it makes us feel, so allow your students to savor feeling more than doing. This naturally creates space for talking less (hooray!) and more adjusting.

2. Narrow your focus.

There are endless topics and themes to explore in yoga class, and it's hard to choose just one. However: Choose just one. Really! And then get specific.

If you go too broad, "It's spring! Time to open our hearts," your class won't be as memorable as, "It's spring! Let's cleanse our heart chakras by easing into Wheel Pose." Plus, the more specific you get, the more you discover what makes you light up as a teacher. That leads to...

3. Give yourself permission to be you.

Teaching yoga can be as vulnerable as taking a class. You never know what backstory each student might bring to the mat or what every student needs that day, and that's okay. The more you show up as yourself, the more you'll authentically be able to assist others.

Do you like to crack jokes? Chant? Take yoga photos with your dog? Is your style slower or faster than other teachers? Within the class framework you're given, inject your personality (minus the dog). You'll find your tribe once you start showing up as yourself.

GIVEAWAY: Want to journey into your authentic self? Caren is giving away one free spot to her 30-day digital yoga and meditation program, You Again Yoga, to a lucky Alive in the Fire reader!

This program will benefit anyone who feels disconnected from themselves, whether through stress, depression, anxiety or just a case of the blahs. To enter, like Happy Momentum on Facebook and leave a comment here about what you’re hoping to gain from the yoga and meditation program. A winner will be chosen on May 3rd.

Caren Baginski is a writer, yoga instructor and creator of You Again Yoga who overcame depression through her practice. She takes yoga photos with her dog (seriously!) and writes weekly on her website Happy Momentum. She lives in Denver, CO. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Leverage Your Life (A Guest Post by Sponsored Yogi Justin)

Photos courtesy of Justin.

Am I living up to my highest potential?

This is a great question for spring time, when the earth itself shows signs of renewal, vital energy, and awakening. 

Every day is a new opportunity to invigorate your life, and notice what opportunities surround you. Today I have an inspiring post from sponsored yogi Justin on ways to fulfill your potential by leveraging the tools you have, including a yoga practice.

Leverage, or the use of something to its maximum advantage, has been coming up in my life recently.  

The concept first came up when I took a workshop on Thai Massage recently. If you aren't familiar with that form of massage... picture you and your massage therapist getting into all sorts of pretzel like contortions and at the end of the hour you will feel exactly like a Bavarian Pretzel: soft and yummy. 

What I learned in the workshop was that the various stretches are not used to induce a sense of intimate awkwardness, but to always leverage body weight. Body weight, not body strength, is used to massage the muscles to maximum effect with minimal effort. 

After 25 minutes of tossing my partner Molly around and giving her an amazing massage with a group of 50+ people surround us, she asked, "Wow, aren't you tired?" The honest answer was, "No." I wasn't tired because I leveraged my body weight and my muscles didn't have to do much except get a nice stretch. 

This past week I took a five day coaching course so that I could improve my career and my relationships. One of the surprising things I learned was that if I wanted to easily improve in those areas of my life I needed to work on my communication skills. 

Communication skills are leverage for improvement in other areas of my life. If I focus solely on career and relationships it will require a lot of effort. I'm effectively performing a Swedish massage on my life...things will improve, but it will be exhausting. 

What does this have to do with Yoga? Why am I posting this on a yoga blog, other than because I took the Workshop at a yoga studio? 

Well...What is yoga? It's a practice where I have to communicate with myself. 

I need to listen to my body, understand it, and sometimes ask it to do things it doesn't want to do. If I can't do that with myself, how well am I going to do that with a friend, a partner, a sibling, coworker, or boss? Probably not very well. 

If I take a more intensive yoga workshop or do 1 on 1 instruction then I WILL be asked to do something I either don't want to or physically can't perform and I be forced to communicate that to the instructor or I'll be communicating with a doctor or therapist. Either way I'm communicating with other! 

Yoga is not just yoga; yoga is leverage for your life.

This is so true! Thanks, Justin, for your wise words. Hope you yogis are making time to leverage your lives and spend some time on your mats this week! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Singing Kirtan in the Park

Yesterday I brought my djembe to the park to sing some kirtan.

Chanting is a great way to get grounded, connect with spirit, and tune in with your inner world of emotion. I often feel I am closest to experiencing divine energy when I sing from the heart. 

Hope you're enjoying a happy Easter today! What a beautiful chance to celebrate love, healing, rebirth, renewal, and all things light.

Feeling very blessed, and sending you love!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Relief for Sciatica Pain

I've had a couple days with sciatica pain this week. Here’s how I’m dealing:

Coming to my mat at home. A gentle, slow-moving yoga practice serves me right now, and the pace and energy of a power vinyasa class is too much.

Frog pose and double pigeon feel amazing. Warrior poses and revolved triangle, not so much.

Awareness and patience. I build these through meditation.

Massage. It can be painful, but there is a lot of release. I work with some fantastic massage therapists and I’ve been consistent with my foam roller and tennis ball for on my own, too.

Reiki. Energy healing works wonders!

Rest. Perhaps most important on this list: remembering to make time for me, to be in stillness. Healing takes time.

Have you ever had sciatica pain? What helped?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

True Beauty

Being beautiful means believing in yourself. Trusting your inner wisdom, even as you take risks. Beautiful is throwing convention to the wind, and doing it your own way.

This week, I chopped off a bunch of my hair—I went for it, even though I knew it would be different than any style I've had before. And I love it! I feel sexy and unique and playful.

Beautiful is saying YES to opportunities that come your way.

This week I said YES to the chance to teach yoga at my home studio, Leap Yoga in Folsom. I’ll be sharing an hour of asana with my wonderful community and I am thrilled! My intention for the class is to humble myself, to be willing to be seen, and to have fun.

Beautiful is being dedicated to the soulful practices that allow you to love others.

This week, I’m spending time on my mat, meditating, reading, and remembering to take time for myself, even as I serve. In all I do, I seek peace and balance.

In this moment, I feel beautiful. And I think you’re beautiful too!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Teaching Yoga with a Humble Heart

Photo by Cait Loper Photography.

Teaching yoga is a gift. I am so humbled by witnessing a student experience the practice.

That peaceful look at the end of class, it lights me up inside. Sometimes I’ll watch a yogi laying in savasana, no wrinkles in his forehead, the slightest hint of a smile at his lips, and it hits me: I’m doing what I am here to do. I am sharing what I am meant to share.

Yoga is such a gift. I can’t hold onto it. I can’t create it. Even my own practice: I must let go of it.

As I teach, I strive simply to offer myself in service, allowing myself to be seen, encouraging my students. I’m really not doing anything; I’m just helping students get out of their own way, and that’s where the shifts happen.

When we show up over and over again, we are bound to find success.

Practice and all is coming is how Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said it.

Dharma Mittra says, With constant practice comes success.

Thank you, students, for coming to your mat. Thank you, teachers who have gone before me. I bow humbly to you, in gratitude. I bow to the students whose paths will cross mine.



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