Tuesday, July 30, 2013

update and a recipe

It seems I've fallen behind a bit on my blogging... So, I will just post a quick update and recipe for an awesome salad that I made last night. I'm keeping you on your toes, mixing it up, yes?

My name is on the schedule!
This week has been sort of amazing in terms of yoga's place in my life- and it's only Tuesday! I am teaching 3 classes, one of which is in the evening- tonight in fact!  This is the most I've ever taught in a studio, or anywhere else in a week, and I am really loving it.  I also had my very first private yoga client, visit one of two (or more)...This is a project that is super exciting to me because it requires reserach, study and development of a practice specifically for her.  What I did not know previously is that she has very little yoga experience, so that adds another dimension of challenge.  But I love it
and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work one on one. Lastly, I also attended a meditation workshop last night.  It was about doing meditation while laying down instead of sitting, followed by  a dharma talk.  The meditation was nourishing to me and I'm not sure if I fell asleep or just went really inward, either way, I was pretty out of it and relaxed.  The dharma talk left me confused and feeling un-enlightened.  That's OK.
I do have some anxiety about teaching an evening class, but I'm trying to just ignore it.  I think I am nervous because I don't know how many students to expect, so it is a little difficult to plan the class.  In restorative yoga, we use lots of props, which take up space, often spilling out off of the mats, so smaller classes are better, spacially.  Thankfully, I did some training in teaching restorative yoga with minimal props, so I can adapt, but I'm not at the place where I have all of that stuff just memorized and ready to come out of me, smoothly and gracefully... so my approach will be to plan for both a large class and a smaller one.  Argh!
Also, the class is 15 minutes longer than my usual, so I need to fill that time.  But I think I have that covered, in that we'll do a longer, more active warm-up. 
Also also also, I'll be subbing for the regular teacher, and I haven't had the chance to take her class since this subbing situation popped up last minute.  I know that we teach similar styles, but I don't want to disappoint her regular students by, well,  not being her- haha.  There's nothing I can do about that and I need to just get over that as well. 
In all, I'm not THAT nervous, and I'm really excited.  This won't be my very first time teaching, so I've got that going for me. 

Yesterday's class was fun, and I was rewarded by a comment one of my students made.  She said "that was like a mini vacation". YES!!!  That's what I want people to feel. 
The class started off a bit rowdy because a small group of lady friends came together who had not seen each other for a while and made plans to do my class socially.  That's totally my kind of jam, I'm all about bringing people together as I am a self-proclaimed social butterfly queen.  I felt honored that they chose to come to my class, but there was talking and busy energy about the room as we began.  One of the ladies, who now I realize must have been a brand new beginner and so was feeling a little self-conscious as we started, she kind of did her own thing and was also sort of talking to her friends a little while we were warming up. I had to assert myself as the teacher, and take control a bit.  It wasn't a big deal, but it was a hurdle I wasn't expecting to have to get through.
Anyway, the students started to calm down, cool off, and feel good.  I could see it in their bodies.  I think that the situation with the rowdiest lady who might have felt a little uncomfortable could have been nipped in the bud if I had remembered to ask if anyone was brand new to yoga.  I didn't think about it because restorative yoga can be practiced by anyone- no experience necessary to reap the benefits- so it didn't really concern me.  But, in forgetting to ask the students, I was only thinking of my own experience as a teacher, and I could have made her feel more comfortable upfront were I to address this at the beginning of class.  Now I know.  I think it is also good in that it opens up the conversation in the room, and makes me seem more open and approachable (or rather, exposes my openness and approachable-ness).  I want my students to want to ask me questions and interact and engage, so I'm happy to have found a new way to show that I am available.

and on to the food.  As well as being a social butterfly queen, I also consider myself to be a salad maker queen.  This is one I threw togehter last night.  

 Toustous (Couscous + Tuna= Toustous)

1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cup cold water
juice of 1 lemon
a little olive oil

Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl and let sit overnight (ideally), covered.  (6 hours was enough for me yesterday though) ---so this is great, you can start it in the morning before work and then when you get home you will have lemony couscous, made without using electricity!

Gather the following to add once the couscous is ready:
cucumber- chopped
a bunch of parsley-chopped
a little bit of kale- finely chopped
avocado- chopped
handful of sundried tomatoes (or regular tomatoes)
sunflower seeds
fresh chives or green onion
can of tuna*-whatever type you prefer
more lemon juice to taste
S+P to taste
balsamic vinegar to taste
more olive oil to taste

mix it all up in a bowl and top with a dallop of plain yogurt and maybe a scoop of hummus and you are rocking it.
 *you could also use salmon, but then the recipe would have to be called Soussous which is a little strange

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kids yoga-the last day

Last week at Camp Rhythmo, the kids had their final showcase, which they have been building up to and working on for weeks.  When I walked into the cafeteria, I was impressed with the set-up; displays of all of their projects and creations were hanging on the walls, including my favorite, the yoga collages we made on our first day together! I was excited to see the kids perform their songs and do the choreography and of course, their yoga demonstration.  The show was adorable and I felt so proud of the kids.  I may have even teared up a little, or maybe there was an eyelash in my eye??

On my very first day teaching kids yoga, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I ended up feeling so grateful for having had the opportunity to do this.  Sadly, the second session of the camp was cancelled due to low attendance, but my last day with the kids was probably one of the most challenging and the most rewarding. 

I walked in to the school room for my first day of session 2, and saw only three boys, which was a drastic reduction from my very first day when I met somewhere around 20-24 kids. Two of the boys I already knew from session 1, and the other boy was new.  My first thought was "Yay!  everyone can have their own mat!"  and my second thought was "How am I going to do this?"
The class started off a little rough.  I wasn't sure how to structure it since there were so few of them.
I decided to take a different approach and create it like a real/grown up yoga class...teacher up front so that students can watch the demonstration of poses, and students' mats lined up perpendicular. I needed to review and teach the new kid yet try to avoid boring the returning kids...I saw the challenge in this because not only were the returning kids a bit distracted and rowdy, but the new kid seemed tired and uninterested.  hmph.

I quickly went through poses we knew and had the returning kids demonstrate.  We covered breathing techniques and I introduced nadi sodhana.  New kid was not impressed.  So I pulled out my secret weapon- partner boat pose.  Fun was had by all!  That really got them all going! Sensing from this that we needed a faster moving class, we moved right into downward facing dog and then one-legged DFD.  A little bit of a balance challenge.  The boys were keeping up and seemed to want more of a challenge, so I sped things up and introduced the concept of sequencing. We flowed over and over through the poses we knew, taking short breaks in child's pose and then slowed down a bit and studied Tree Pose.  "This is boring and hard" said a boy that is often very distracted.  I replied only, "really?"
I could tell I was losing them so I decided we should be more playful and fun. We used our imaginations and turned our mats into magic carpets and went on a magic carpet ride, but that kind of backfired and caused them to want to constantly lift their mats up and not really do yoga...So I got us standing on our mats to do partner tree poses and we all grew like a forest, which was a good group activity.  (even though tree pose is apparently boring and hard)  Thankfully, we were nearing the end of our allotted time, because I was running out of ideas.
Wearily, tired new boy asked when we were going to "relax", which made me giggle a little bit.  Feeling like I needed a break myself, I complimented him on his excellent suggestion, and enticed them to lay on their backs in "relaxing pose" aka savasana.
It took some work to get them all into the correct form, especially one of the more hyper boys who kept fidgeting and talking.  I sat right up by his head and gently shhhh-ed him/them while verbally taking them on a journey.  I had them imagine being in their favorite place: the beach, their home, their bed, their couch, a garden, wherever they felt best and safe and loved.  I asked them to think about who is there with them, their favorite people, their parents, their pets, their siblings, their friends...I told them that in this place, they didn't have to worry about homework, or chores, or fighting with their siblings or cleaning their rooms.  While calmly shushing the boys between phrases, I noticed that the fidgety one started to become more still, as had the other boys.  I noticed pockets of absolute silence.  Though the boys weren't totally still, they were calm, quiet, and seemed content to just lay there and be.  I tried a little more visualization, but I wasn't totally prepared to do this with them and I didn't want to say anything that would make them uncomfortable or scared...like adults in savasana, it can be a very vulnerable place for a child to be, emotionally, and kids have fears about things that I don't even know about...so I kept it light and generic. 

Though part of me wanted to see just how long this could continue and savor the quiet that is so rare among kids this age, our time was almost up, so I instructed them to move into child's pose.  They moved into the pose as if in slow motion. Dr. Grant came over and commented on how tranquil it was in our space and aided me by adjusting the kids and reminded them of their breathing.  Savasana continued on a little bit longer as they sat like rocks in child's pose.  Finally, we had to end the class and after sharing our Namaste blessings to each other, I asked them to reflect on how they felt.  I asked if they felt good right now, if they felt calm and content.  And they convincingly replied that they did. 

As I reflected upon the difference in the energy the boys had been throwing around the room only minutes before our practice, and smiled at the small but delightful change in the tone of the room.  I felt like I had really accomplished something, and maybe that something is a step towards a more peaceful life for all involved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

this all would be so much easier if I was independantly wealthy

Henry Cavill is distracting...amiright?
So, I'm currently on a two-month hiatus from my regularly paying gig in the world of theatrical costumes.  My plan for this time was to: a) really focus on my yoga study b) teach yoga c) figure out  how I am going to transition into making a living in this field, or at least try to come up with some sort of plan or list of goals and sense of a timeline.  So far I am about 3/4 of the way through this hiatus.  I can happily say that I've been doing well and for the most part, staying focused on the big picture. But my approach and mind has been a bit scattered: one day I'll study kids yoga, the next I'll spend some time studying restorative...maybe I'll research upcoming therapeutic teacher trainings for this fall? ...but how will I pay for it?  ...what about reading some books on personal finance...but which one? ...and I need to network... and I need business cards and a webpage... and hey- what about actually doing some yoga?  Oh yah, I can't really, because I'm injured.... GRR! ...And hey, also, I'm single and I'd like to meet and date someone awesome...but I want it to be easy! HA.  (actually, I don't really care that much about that right now, which is refreshing)

Anyway, though it has been tempting to stray from my goals and just go out and socialize and date and such, I am devoted to seeing this through.  I would be really pissed at myself if I just wasted all of this time partying or running around NYC, blowing all of my cash and getting off track.  I'm aware of how important this time is for me and I won't let it just slip by.

Over the past several weeks,  I've been making a lot of progress and have been growing as a yoga teacher, but I have often felt stuck and as if I have nowhere to turn.  Though I have a lovely auxiliary support system, I don't have a mentor, or someone that I can check in with regularly that will let me know that I am making smart choices or help to keep me on track and give me  advice.  And I find that I don't know where to focus my energy.  Yes, I have a couple of very dear friends that ask about my progress, and I am thankful to have them to discuss ideas and I value their feedback and encouragement, but they aren't yoga teachers (nor are they costumers) so they can't answer all of my questions.  Plus, people have to live their own lives and probably don't want to hear about my stresses when we hang out...I barely want to talk about all of it because it's so complicated!  (Which is why I have this blog, so much easier to write it all out!)
Anyway, today after a mini freakout with a modicum of tears, I picked myself up and headed to the coffee shop...It was time to snap out of it and make shit happen. I decided that I needed to get all of this stuff out of my head and form a visual plan of attack (or more accurately, rewrite my original)  which flowered into a 2 page list complete with lots of arrows and a couple of circled proper nouns. While I've had the book, The Yogi Entrepreneur: A Guide to Earning a Mindful Living Through Yoga by Darren Main for some time, I haven't had the chance to really sit down with it as well as my laptop and my notebook and my calendar all together...all necessary tools in my plan-making practice.  The book was useful, as was the google machine and facebook.

One idea I came up with today that simplifies things is that instead of spending money on more continued ed training, I can save that money and structure my career planning like a syllabus, focusing on one or two areas a week.  I'll train myself in all of these areas that I have only a basic knowledge of thus far- but I'll be serious about it and treat it like school, give myself deadlines and goals for each week.   Maybe I work on social media/marketing myself one week: business cards/flyers/webpage/blogging/emails--- and setting all of that up so that it's easy and organized.  (yes, I know all of that will probably take more than a week to teach myself how to build a web page, but I'm going to keep going with this idea)  Maybe the next week's focus is on Money- personal, business, stuff like learning about investing and saving and retirement (yah, that should definitely be longer than one week) Maybe one week I focus on insurance (health and liability) and legal stuff...And the next I research yoga studios and teachers that I want to practice and teach with... all the while I continue to teach at least one class a week, and maintain my own practice...oh yah and work at my job...and continue healing my shoulder...and maybe try to have a bit of a social life so I'm not totally depressed
OK, it's still overwhelming...but that's OK because it's less overwhelming than it was 6 hours ago.

  Mainly because I've already gotten a good start on said list.  I think I may have found a health insurance option that actually looks promising. Considering all of the (thankfully minor) health issues I've had lately, that was a pretty high priority point. I reached out to friends via facebook and got an amazingly helpful email from one of my awesome costume design grad-school classmates. Not only did she tell me what she knew about an insurance option, but offered more advice on starting your own business.   Thanks Rebecca Frey, owner of Seek New York, I'm sure I'll be asking you for advice again once I get through some of these items on my giant 2 page todo list!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

relaxing and restoring

For the past two weeks I have been happily teaching restorative yoga classes on Mondays at Shambhala Yoga and Dance Studio in their Blossoming Teachers program, where new teachers are given the opportunity to teach and find their voice in a supportive environment.  The Blossoming Teachers classes are donation based and all of the money goes to support cancer research.  I'm happy to be connected with this program not only because it gives me the chance to hold classes in a studio and reach out to new students, but also because I can help fight the beast that is cancer.  Having lost not only my father but also my uncle and young cousin to cancer, it touches a nerve deep in my soul.  This is a way for me to help.  I have often considered the idea of teaching yoga to cancer survivors in a place like Gilda's Club, but currently just thinking about it makes me weepy, so I don't think I'm ready for that yet...maybe some day.

So far I have lead two restorative classes smack dab in the middle of the day on Monday.  The classes have been small, 2-4 students, but I don't mind that, I'm just happy to have new students!  I have been interested in sharing restorative yoga for a while, and have studied it independently and trained in it, but because the practice requires a good amount of props, I haven't been able to teach it in my tiny home because I don't own enough bolsters or blankets.  It's exciting to be able to use the props and have the space to spread out in the studio.

At first, I was very nervous to teach a new style in a new space to people I don't know.  But in order to get through it in a way that I would be happy with myself and the class, I had to bury my insecurities and just dive in.  As I did with conquering my initial fears of teaching kids yoga, I just pretended that I have been doing this forever.  Again this approach worked...(maybe I should apply this to my dating life and I will find success?)  After leading the students in our warm up and getting into the first pose, I became more comfortable and just rode the wave that was me...being a restorative yoga teacher.  I noticed that it felt natural.  I felt confident that people were enjoying it, I could tell that they were.  I could see it in their bodies.  As I talked them down to a more relaxed state, I could see them loosening up and sinking into the mats.  I observed their posture and breathing and took cues from what their bodies were telling me, then guided them into letting go...it was working!  It was awesome!
After class, I encouraged the students to give me feedback and explained that I was new to teaching in a studio.  One (cute) guy said "that was exactly what I needed today" (yay!!) another woman said how nice it was to be able to do restorative yoga in the middle of the day (yay again!) and there were several appreciative "thank you"s...One of my goals in my second class was to try to help them cool down their systems, because it had been a particularly hot day.  I asked if they felt cooler and they said yes, enthusiastically...I believed them and didn't feel like they were just flattering me.
So far, this has been a very rewarding experience for me.  One of my goals in being a yoga teacher is to help people feel better, and I can say that I have been successful in that, at least in a tiny way.
Good stuff

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kids yoga...diving right in!

A few months ago, my chiropractor asked me if I would come teach yoga to kids in his summer wellness camp, Camp Rhythmo. I had no experience in teaching kids yoga, but I was immediately on board- what a great opportunity!
I started doing my own research to try to figure out how to effectively teach yoga to kids.  I googled stuff, bought some flash cards, read some Yoga Journal articles and reached out to people in my yoga community through Shambhala to get some advice.  One thing lead to another and I was able to participate in one day of a teacher-training workshop through Asana Alphabet.  I credit this workshop with much of my success thus far...I went from being completely ignorant of where to start, to actually being these kids' yoga teacher... at least for a few weeks!

Fast forward to my first day at camp.  I'm not a teacher and haven't been around that many kids at once in years!  I was petrified!  I didn't have too much of a lesson plan worked out- more of just a list of ideas- because I really didn't know what to expect at all.  A friend told me the trick is to pretend I've been teaching kids yoga forever, so I did that.  They had no idea.

I was hoping to make it through about 35minutes of class, and to my delight, I made it all the way through to almost an hour without having a freak-out.
The first 40 minutes of class we learned asanas and breath and had a lot of fun with it.  I didn't worry about alignment or very much beyond just getting them interested.  I encouraged them to move around in the space and make noise, I kept it light and playful.   We made cat meowing sounds and mooed like cows.  We hissed as cobras and stood tall like mountains then grew into trees. They were rowdy but it didn't bother me, there was excitement in the room and I loved it!  I was overwhelmed with the adorableness that was surrounding me...those tiny little fingers and toes...their sweet little voices and laughter...a few of them wanted to be right next to me and hold my hand...it was too sweet! 
 Some of the kids were trying to impress me by showing me that they meditate- or at least they sit in a meditation pose complete with a hand mudra and OM.  sooo cute! I was impressed.

After introductions to asanas (poses) we spent some time being creative and made some collages/flash cards/art.  I brought in some pictures of poses from magazines plus some glue and crayons and construction paper and let them go to town.  I didn't give much instruction but was pleased when some of the kids asked how to spell certain poses, or wrote things like "yoga is fun" and "I love yoga".  I was hooked on their enthusiasm.

Overall, my first class (my very first experience teaching real live children in the art of yoga) went pretty well!  I felt good and nobody cried, so I considered it a success.  I had a short check in with Dr. Grant and Michael and we agreed that it was a good class, but might be more manageable for me if we split the kids into two groups and just do 2 smaller back to back classes. That way, the class size would be closer to about 10 kids, resulting in more personal attention and less distractions from other kids...good idea!
I left the school with a huge smile on my face and a lightness in my heart, already planning my next class. What a wonderful way to start a morning!