Monday, June 27, 2011

You Might Think (I'm Crazy)

On Friday I was really fired up for my 12:00 basics class. My mouth was feeling nearly 100% better, and my energy was still (and remained until Saturday) boundless from that Summer Solstice infusion of overt, creative, doing sun-energy. I put The Cars: Greatest Hits on and proceeded to teach a good-sized, very active, playful class. I was having a great time, and though challenged, the students seemed to be, too. I made jokes to break them out of their yoga head-space, which is my wont, and offered challenging and gentler variations to keep everyone working at their own level. I was at the top of my game and felt amazing!


Half-way through the class, a gentleman in the front row came out of gorilla pose, and stood relaxed in Mountain Pose. Assuming he needed a break from that deep spinal opening, I thought nothing of it, but when I had made my way back up to the front of the room from observing and adjusting the rest of the group, he got my attention. "Could you play something a little more mellow than The Cars..?" he asked. It took me a second to register the question in my yoga zone, but I had already assured him that , 'Yes, sure!' whatever it was, I was ready to make this practice his best ever! I turned to walk to the sound system, and immediately felt a twinge of regret and annoyance. I found Broken Social Scene, and the sound quality of the space went from bordering-on-dance-party to sloooooow-meeeellooooow-cooonteeemplaaatiiive. My energy level dropped to the floor.

I invited everyone to take a few breaths in Down Dog, while I took a few breaths of my own. I had been riding high on the waves of energy from the music, from the students, from the practice, and my flow had just been broken sharply in half.

With Savasana only fifteen minutes away, it was a good time to downshift anyway. I took the class into some arm balances, hip openers, backbends, and hamstring opening poses before opening up the floor for Freedom and Inversion Practice.

After class everyone thanked me, including the music requester, and I took my time writing up my class in the binder, finishing my glass of water, collecting my belongings, contemplating the exchange that had just happened. Had I done the right thing?

The studio I did my teacher training in's only music rule was that it was the instructor's choice. I had loved doing yoga to "Africa" by Toto one minute, The Dixie Chicks, the next, with gangster rap, techno, and some "more mellow" stuff thrown in too, for good measure. The rule there was, if a student asked that the music be changed, or turned down for that matter, the request was politely declined. If the student didn't like the music, they were supposed to breathe through it and focus on their practice, just as they would if put into a pose that wasn't their favourite.

I responded intuitively, reacting to the moment, so I don't feel like I did the wrong thing, but I wonder, if it happens again, if I'll respond the same way. Would it be better to stand up for the integrity of the yoga I'm teaching in that moment and politely decline? I think, in some ways, yes, that's the best call. But I'm not prepared to stand by that decision if someone is driven to walk out of a class over my unorthodox music choices. Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center does not have that "suck it up!" quality that, love it or hate it, Yoga to the People does. We're a nurturing space. When teaching at Namaste, if someone is so affected by the music that he or she feel the need to interrupt her or his practice and say something to me about it, I feel obliged to comply. Namaste only recently started allowing music with lyrics to be played in classes at all. Maybe for this student, 80's synth-pop was just too intense of a departure from Sanskrit chanting and instrumentals. Maybe they just happened to deeply dislike The Cars. Maybe playing the same band for sixty minutes set me up for a negative response.

I've run into a couple (seriously, two) other students who felt the same way, and as strongly, about my musical leanings. I've had a similar number express fondness for them, and the rest have been the silent majority. I can't say what they're feeling if they don't, but I know for me, whether practicing or teaching, though especially teaching since I'm talking so much, my awareness of the music drops to a background sense of the energy level and basic sound qualities, unless it's a favourite song, and then, though no, it's not good yoga in the sense of quieting my mind and tuning inward, I love keeping pace with the music, expressing the song through Asana. I think, though, there's a place, and an important one, for that kind of asana experience: letting loose and rejoicing in my body is a beautiful, and very yogic thing.

Are my opinions on this matter highly uncommon? Sacrilegious? Or am I the one voice of many too embarrassed to speak up and request Lady Gaga or Lil' Wayne in their yoga classes? If so, for the record, I have just the workshop for you brewing...keep your ear to the ground and your eye on my facebook page.

I won't know where you and your ilk fall on this continuum unless you tell me. Please do!

Live Omily, no matter what music beats match your heartbeats,
~em

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wisdom Pouring From My Teeth

In spite of a nasty looking astrological event, the wisdom teeth came out as planned on Friday. You can debate how much irony there is in the removal of wisdom teeth under such circumstances at your leisure while you contemplate this over-share picture.

The procedure went fine, and now, five days later, I am more or less safe from infection or dry-socketing (knock on wood; I haven't had my week-check-up yet!). That's not to say that everything was perfectly smooth though.

Turns out, Omilies are allergic to codeine derivatives! Including oxicodone, the medicine I was given for pain management. Within twenty-four hours, pain management had morphed into puking free-for-all. There were breaks in the evenings that lulled me into a false sense of security more than once. Ultimately I had to be perscribed a whole other medicine, and lets just say I had the dubious pleasure of not having to swallow that one, to control the nausea and vomiting.

You see, the oxicodone wasn't upsetting my stomach; it was messing with the nausea and vomiting center of my brain, and would continue to do so until it worked out of my system several days after I stopped taking it. By the way, I stopped taking it Saturday, and stopped taking tylenol Sunday morning. I've had no pain meds since then. I am a fecking champ.

I tell you all this for a couple reasons: first and foremost there is no point in having a blog, no matter how pure its intentions may claim to be, if you can't share with the world that you were sick as a dog for a few days.

Secondly, I guess this comes right on the heals of my admission that I don't generally practice yoga daily--I failed this yoga test, too. I didn't meditate, calm my mind, and stay in the moment. I rolled around in bed, when my tummy would permit any movement, and moaned and groaned about how miserable I was and how I kind of wanted to die if it wasn't going to stop soon.

I was particularly bad on Monday, when my husband, who has been wonderful through all of this, had to go back to work, leaving me to my nauseous (though medicated so able to keep some food down) lonesome. The problem with this miracle drug is that it was originally marketed as an anti-psychotic and has some fun side-effects to match: twitching, blurred vision, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, and though unlisted I can attest, short attention span and basic antsy-ness. Yes, I was desperate enough for relief to go on this stuff. This combination of symptoms makes any kind of boredom relief short of talking to another human being (ideally not about your suffering, but good luck with that...) completely impossible. You can't read; you can't watch tv, you can't accomplish things around the house. You are trapped in a really freaky headspace. I was not a fan. And I was not pleasant. I called three friends and left voicemails so forlorn that they all called back apologizing for not answering their phones within 24-hours. I did everything short of blatantly asking my husband to ditch work to come home and suffer with me (I applaud him for not taking the bait; he deserved that day off more than I did!) Finally, (and I'm not proud that this was a last resort. Had I been in my right mind it probably would have been my first idea) I called my Dad.

Jack pot! My Dad lives in Ohio, and misses me a great deal. He's always looking for a chance to chat me up for a while, just to catch up, hear my voice, and make sure I'm ok. Usually I'm too swept up in the crazy currents of my own life to fulfill this request in a reasonable fashion, reasonable request though it is. On Monday though, I was sooooooo ready for a nice, long, involved chat! We talked for an hour about this and that, and by the time I got off the phone I was feeling way better. I even managed to write a letter to my Grandpa Pate who lives in Florida sans-telephone (but he deserves a post of his own).

I convinced the husband that holding down applesauce for the duration of the afternoon certified me recovered enough to appear in public, in spite of still being heavily medicated and suffering from the myriad afore-mentioned side-effects, and so we met at Trader Joe's shortly thereafter to buy food. It felt great to be out in the world again. Even with the imprisoning sense of dizziness and confusion, it made all the different in the world to just be doing something. I hadn't realized before just how hooked I am on my insanely busy lifestyle that I complain about so much.

And here's another point (the third, if you're keeping score) to this perhaps too exciting post: we craft our own lives. If I genuinely didn't enjoy being busy and rushing around all the time, I would drop some activities and make room on my schedule, but I'd rather go grocery shopping on anti-nausea meds! In the future, I'll at least try to acknowledge the absurdity of my complaints, if I can't curtail making them altogether.

There is a happy ending to all this: I kept dinner down Monday night, and by Tuesday, I was off the meds (still a day or two away from working it out of my system and being free of side-effects though), eating normally (ok, so lots of applesauce, dry cereal, and a little brown right isn't normal), and I even took a yoga class!

Next point to this post: Obviously Saturday through Monday I was not taking yoga class at Namaste per the 30-day challenge as mentioned in the last post. If people I loved had had a say in the matter I may not have taken a class Tuesday either, but mentally speaking, I desperately needed it. It felt amazing to move my body in that way again. So, in spite of all the angst this challenge has entailed, and with less than a week to go, it worked! I'm hooked! I can't wait to take my yoga class today. Go me! Go Namaste!

Today, I feel a good 93% of the way to normal, which is to say, absolutely amazing! In spite of the trials and tribulations, even if they could have been avoided, I don't regret having my wisdom teeth out Friday because, here is the last (and fourth) point, I learned from it. A lot. And that is the point of everything.

Live Omily, hang onto your wisdom if not your teeth!
~em

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CAUTION: Yogini Under Construction

So, two weeks ago today I embarked on a little something Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center calls, "The Thirty-Day Yoga Challenge". I'm taking a studio yoga class every day for 30-days. For those of you who think I'm a yoga machine who lives for two-a-days with the sweat dripping onto my mat, prepare to be disillusioned:

I love my asana practice, both studio classes, and more recently, my self-guided explorations. Generally I take two or three studio classes a week, and practice on my own the other two or three days. I take the weekends off because, basically, yoga is my job. My husband has the weekends off so we can do fun things, so I take the weekends off, too. I HAVE NEVER TAKEN MORE THAN ONE YOGA CLASS IN A DAY IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!! To make matters worse, I have days, weeks even, when asana feels like an unwarranted demand on my time; a chore. On those days, weeks even (ok, so it hasn't been more than seven days between practices in over a year now...), I focus on integrating yoga into my daily life and skip the asana practice all together.

Now you know. I'm a hack.

So, for the month of June, I've signed on to this challenge, and I'm taking a studio class every day this month except for the 4th, when I was irreversibly stranded on an island off the coast of Maryland with ten other awesome people and some wild ponies. (I didn't mind too horribly). It's not just asana of course, we're also getting daily e-mails to explain the other seven limbs of yoga, offering meditation suggestions, nutrition guidelines, and blurbs on the yamas and niyamas. These e-mails are really interesting and helpful...but they all come with a healthy dose of, "You're TRANSFORMING!!! I KNOW your life is SO MUCH BETTER NOW!!!!!"

That's not how they say it at all; it's very sweet, kind, loving and uplifting...it's just that, I teach yoga; I love yoga, and taking a class everyday isn't making me feel tranquil and transformed; it's making me feel tired and frustrated, and this makes me think there is something wrong with me.

Like, this is how I'm supposed to be feeling:


And this is more like what I'm actually feeling. Maybe if the rocks were also on fire...



For those of you who aren't visual learners let me add a more experiential explanation of my predicament:

I'm having all four wisdom teeth out in a bloody blaze of glory this Friday, and all I can think about is, "YES!!! NO ONE EXPECTS ME TO TAKE A YOGA CLASS SATURDAY!!!!!!!"

This is sad. And also totally not the point of the challenge. So should I drop out? Reconsider? Meditate more? (As to that last one, the answer is a resounding YES YES YES!!!)

The two former options don't exist because, by God[dess] come hell or highwater (and if that image is any indication both are in fact coming), I will complete this fecking challenge. That slumbering beast of my competitive nature has awakened and the situation is not exactly in control. Even though I know my ego is the voice telling me failure is not an option, I can't seem to circumvent that attitude.

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Yes, my inner dialogue is a good 60% whining lately, yes, I'm letting my ego push me around, yes, I'm re-visiting head-spaces I thought I had left behind long ago, shaking and feeling a little insane in revolved side-angle. But...you can't fight the beast until you flush it out.

I'd rather not look at it this way, for the same reason I'd rather not keep raising my tail bone up and pressing my heart toward my thighs in down dog: because it's harder that way. The truth of the matter is, practicing five times a week (sometimes less), skimping heavily on meditation, and spending a lot of time theorizing about the philosophy has enabled me to reach a level of yoga proficiency both on and off the mat that I can be proud of. The trouble is, this height I'm enjoying the view from isn't a summit; it's a plateau. By accepting this challenge, I took a step toward a path leading upward. I guess the clouds were obscuring just how steep and rugged the terrain was.

Sure, my ego can't tolerate the shame of having given up, but maybe for once it's onto something. I'm not the type to drop out when the going gets tough. I wouldn't be a yoga teacher if I was. I can trust that there are, perhaps, beautiful revelations ahead, growth, strength, peace, greater resistance to inner turmoil...on the other hand, maybe there's nothing but continued odd sore muscles (my back, my shins...) and the constant struggle to maintain the rest of my life in addition to an hour commute there and back for my practice. Though that alternative makes me cringe, I can work toward a deeper acceptance of the fact that I'm not entitled to the fruits of my actions, only the actions themselves.

What I'd really like to get out of this is a huge efficiency upgrade, and improved time-management skills.

I'll take what I can get. Omilies don't give up.

love Omily,
~em

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Expectations

I shouldn't panic. This has happened before. It's been eight days, instead of seven, but I haven't had that House-style moment of, 'Yes. This is what I must share with the blag-reading community.'

Ok. Not panicking. Let's talk about yoga for kids!

I'm auditioning to teach yoga to kids on the 23rd. I do not know the ages, the numbers, or the expectations. In fact, truth be told, I may know the first thing about yoga for kids, and even the second and third, but that's about it.

Not panicking.

Actually, I feel pretty excited about this. I think my teaching style of playful, open-ended, fall down, laugh, get up, try again, exploration is perfectly suited to the smaller set.

What makes me nervous is, you can't expect little kids to run through two or three Sun Salutations for warm-up, and the other aspect of my style: that of let's stay here for a hot second and see what happens while I chit-chat about all the really specific things you can be doing to deepen your expression of the pose, won't sit well with kids at all. Kids often don't sit well. Seated meditation is likely out the window. Who knows what Savasana will bring!

Why aren't I panicking? I am so excited about this! Arguably the first thing about yoga for kids is to release your expectations of getting them into certain poses or getting a certain amount done in the allotted time. Arguably the second thing about kids' yoga is that until children are eight years old, their skeletons are too undeveloped for them so safely hold asanas for more than a breath, maybe two.

Basically, kids yoga is yoga-play: just move your body into some funny shapes, pretend to be some animals; have a great time!

Actually...sounds to me like a kids' yoga workshop for grown-ups is in order...

Live Omily!
~em

"But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."-Matthew 19:14