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We Can All Do More

Yoga-Teacher-Graduation-Ceremony

It’s been quite a week.

I graduated from the Maitri 250hr Yoga Teacher Training program Wednesday evening. I don’t really have adequate words to describe the women I came to know through this program. They fill me up. I have to keep reminding myself to check my ego. These ladies just won’t quit with the compliments!

“Thank you. Thank you,” I found myself chanting like a mantra, the words losing weight with each repetition, collapsing into a jumble of abstract sounds, like a tired tongue twister.

I called my husband Thursday evening right before he boarded a plane for home, a day earlier than planned. His surprise arrival meant I got to sleep in Friday morning and take a leisurely shower while he ran errands with the girls.

I’ve been binge listening to Ultra Runner Podcast lately. The latest episode with Kaci Lickteig played while I sipped my morning coffee. She described her suffering during the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. She spoke plainly about the anger she felt towards her grandma for giving up chemo. The stress she felt over her inability to help rocked her race and, at the same time, drove her to the finish. So she could prove to herself and her grandma that we can all do more than we think we’re capable of.

“Am I angry with my mom?” I wondered. I don’t think so. Although I do feel angry with my dad, for bailing while he was still needed.

Friday night I taught kids’ Superhero Yoga at the Denver Comic Con, and it went really well. The kids were all engaged and my nerves fizzled as soon as we started. Afterwards we went out to eat downtown. The weather was perfect, my family was with me and I was feeling the buzz of beer and relief.

Superhero-Yoga-Denver-Comic-Con

It’s a strange thing experiencing joy in the middle of grief. Celebrating the beautiful moments, both large and small, and continuing on. Going through the motions of daily life as life ends.

I ran during the hottest part of Sunday. My watch stats tell me the temperature ranged between 88 – 106 F. There wasn’t any shade. A visible and textured layer of salt coated my skin by the time I finished. It was hard. But as my hero Glennon Doyle Melton says, “We can do hard things.” I reminded myself that at least the heat meant I was less likely to meet a rattlesnake. I reminded myself that I will survive. I will finish. Or, perhaps more accurately, I will continue. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, because we can all do more than we think we’re capable of.

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I’m Teaching Free Yoga Classes. You Should Come.

The time has come! The time is now! Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now?? Oh wups. I got carried away for a second there. Actually, the time has come for Yoga Teacher Training graduation. And the time is tomorrow. I can’t believe it. The last year has flown by.

So, naturally, I’m starting to think about teaching, and that is making me feel very overwhelmed. Not so much the teaching part. That part is only a little overwhelming. It’s more so the getting a job part. I’m trying to think creatively, summon the courage to do scary things and also just trust that things will work out.

In the meantime, I have signed up to teach two free yoga classes!

Well, the first one is not really free. Sorry for being misleading there. You will have to pay to get into the Denver Comic Con, which may be sold out at this point… If you do find yourself there, definitely swing by for Kids Superhero Yoga from 5:30 – 6:00 pm on both Friday and Saturday. You’ll get to do things like stop a train, lift a car and rescue a cat from a tree. Also, I’m going to wear a costume.

Kids-Superhero-Yoga-Denver-Comic-Con

If you happen to be an adult you might be more interested in the free yoga class I’m teaching at Matri Yoga – Arvada on Sunday, July 16th at 1:00 pm. You don’t have to practice there to come. I’ve put together a draft of my lesson plan and it’s fairly challenging. But my goal is keep things light and welcome play and mistakes. Mostly because I know I will be nervous and making mistakes myself. So don’t worry about having yoga experience. If you like being active you’ll fit right in.

Free-Yoga-Class-Maitri-Arvada

Hope to see you there!

Photo Credit: It’s Super Tre by Mike Fernwood is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Added to marketing image

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Not Your Average Yoga Retreat

I took no yoga pictures, but managed to sneak in a quick run during our one legitimate break and snapped this one.

I went on a retreat for yoga teacher training this past weekend. An image is likely coming to your mind. Perhaps you just let out a sigh that was a mixture of relief and jealousy. Whatever it is you’re imagining, let me assure you. It was not that.

I don’t mean to say it was bad. I cried twice publicly and full on sobbed for a solid hour one evening while I shared a personal story with my roommate. I was obviously affected by the experience, and I feel like I can say with some confidence that I wasn’t the only one.

But it was not relaxing. I was up at 5:00 am every day so I could pump and still get to the 6:00 am asana practice. Nursing Baby Girl takes all of maybe 5-10 minutes, but some combination of performance anxiety and unnaturally small breasts/improperly sized equipment led to 40 minutes of pumping per session. For the most part our free time consisted of 10 minutes here and there to collect our things and move to another location. And a second round of pumping commenced around 9:30 pm when we were finally dismissed. In reality, it was exhausting.

The focus of the weekend was yoga philosophy. We went over the entirety of the Yoga Sutras and about half of the Bhagavad Gita. I’m churning over all of the material.

I think I would’ve oddly felt more comfortable studying the bible for a weekend, because I am very much at ease with not being Christian. I feel more conflicted about yoga philosophy because I know with a certainty that I want to teach. How much of the material do I have to buy into in order to teach in good conscience?

“Take what serves you and leave the rest.” This is what they tell us. So I plan on setting aside a good chunk of it to mull over in my own time.

I am taking with me the beautiful friendships that are beginning to bud, blossoming and flourishing. At the end of the last day of retreat we did a closing ceremony, during which most people shared very personal and emotional thoughts and stories. We cried and we hugged. It was profoundly moving.

As Brene Brown says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

I am beyond grateful for the bravery this group of women showed through their vulnerability and authenticity. The love and acceptance within this community is the medicine we all need.

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The First Step on My Path to Teach Yoga: Overcome Fear

Overcome-Fear-Yoga-Teacher

To overcome fear we just have to do the scary thing. Like become a yoga teacher.

I drove past the Bikram Yoga studio in El Cerrito, California I don’t even know how many times before I finally decided to overcome fear and give it a try. Even then I couldn’t bring myself to do it alone. I had to convince a friend of mine to go with me. And when she stopped going I recruited someone else.

Over time I became more confident in my practice. I took comfort in the routine. Laying out my mat, a beach towel over top of it and a hand towel along its head, my water bottle just outside the top right corner. Rolling up the package into one, big bundle after class. Letting the cool air of the locker room dry the sweat on my skin. Chatting with my yoga partner before finally mustering up the energy to change into dry clothes.

I can’t remember when I first thought of becoming a yoga teacher. Just like I can’t remember the first time I noticed the studio. A seed was planted and over time the idea grew into my conscious awareness, showing up with roots so thick it felt like they had always been there. I knew with a certainty that I wanted to teach.

Yet I still came up with a lot of reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t. Teacher training was way too expensive. Not at all a wise investment given how much yoga teachers make. I couldn’t take the time off work. I couldn’t leave my babies.

But if I’m honest with myself, the real reason I decided not to apply for teacher training was fear. And not even fear of something reasonable, like the ability to practice for 3 hours a day in 105 degrees without becoming dehydrated. No, I was afraid of asking the studio owner for the required recommendation letter. Afraid he would think I was not even remotely close to ready, not at all teacher material. I was afraid he would think I was a joke. So I kept my little dream a secret. Not just from the studio owner, but from everyone, afraid that if I gave it voice someone else might judge me as harshly as I judged myself.

At one point I went so far as to develop a 6 month plan. I don’t remember all the details, but the basic premise was to practice a lot more and get a lot better at asana. I would practice and practice until I felt like I was good enough to ask for the letter without embarrassing myself. I would overcome fear by over preparing.

One day after class one of the teachers handed me a sticky note that read, “Bikram – This certifies that Laura is ready for teacher training.” It meant the world to me. Such a simple little thing, but I will never forget it. I taped the sticky note in my journal and it’s there still.  You might think this was the turning point, the validation I needed to overcome fear. Or that I at least used it as an opening to a conversation about my future in yoga. But no, instead I very emphatically assured him that I couldn’t possibly ever become a teacher.

When I look back over my life and my career, especially, I see the same pattern repeating itself over and over.

  1. Realizing something about myself, something I want to do, getting an idea.
  2. Coming up with a million practical reasons why it won’t work.
  3. Developing a plan to better educate or prepare myself for whatever the thing is.
  4. Doing nothing.

Because here’s the thing about fear. Here’s what I’ve learned. The only way to really get past it, to overcome fear, is to confront it. Sure, practice and preparation helps build confidence. But in the end we just have to do the scary thing. Here's the thing about fear. In the end we just have to do the scary thing. Click To Tweet

When we moved to Colorado a year ago I decided it was time. I picked a Yoga Teacher Training program. I met with the studio owner. I submitted an application. I began practicing at the studio, trying out different styles of yoga for the first time. A lot of the poses I hadn’t seen before, and I didn’t know what to do with all the props. I felt uneasy closing my eyes and the music was distracting.

But just as before, it gradually became familiar. One blanket folded in half twice and then in thirds to sit on. Two blocks at the top of my mat. A sweater and even socks to keep warm during centering at the beginning of class and savasana at the end. Head always facing the front of the room while prone or supine. Peppermint soap in the bathroom. Rooms full of teachers and students I now call friends.

This past weekend I took a class at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver. I talked a friend of mine into going with me, just like that very first day. Because new things never stop being a little scary.

After class the teacher checked in with us to see how it went. A lovely welcoming gesture. She asked me if I was a yoga teacher, and it meant just as much to me as that sticky note once upon a time. The only difference was this time I got to say, “Almost.”

Photo Credit: IMG_6683 by The Yoga People is licensed under CC by SA-2.0 / Cropped and text added to original

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Reflections on the Breath

Dad-Big-Girl-Car-Breath

An observation of the breath as the vital life force.

Bring your awareness to the breath. Without judgement and without attempting to change it in any way, simply notice the breath.

I have a confession. I often find myself thinking, “Enough about the breath already. What’s the big deal?” My yoga teachers explain that the breath, prana, is the vital life force. We can survive for a short time without food or even water, but without the breath we die. I understand the importance of the breath on a theoretical level, but I can’t seem to summon the kind of passion my teachers possess.

I complete the exercise anyway. There is tension in my jaw. The breath catches in my throat. My Adam’s apple feels like a boulder obstructing my airway. Small, shallow breaths fill my lungs, high up in my chest. My stomach is in knots. I feel sick. Nothing is happening down there.

I watch Paul Kalanithi walk into the room. Of course it’s not actually Paul, the author of When Breath Becomes AirBut I think of Paul. I think of all the schooling this man has been through, all the hours he’s spent training, practicing, tuning his skills on the job. I wonder how long he’s been working since his last break and how much sleep he got last night. He looks tired.

I listen carefully to the words he chooses. He has trouble maintaining eye contact. I can’t help but think Paul would do a better job with this.

“Out with it!” I want to say.

And then he says it.

“Of course we could operate. But there’s always the question of should we.” There’s character in these words. Like they were strung together with care and consideration. Clear, yet gentle enough. They are the right words to say in a situation like this. This isn’t the first time this man has said these words and he will use them again. Surely Paul wrote them down as well, blessing them with ink.

A blast of oxygen fills the bag attached to the mask that covers my father’s nose and mouth. It sounds like he’s snoring, and I wonder if his tongue is getting in the way. He’s working hard to breathe.

I try to relax my jaw. I tell myself to breathe deeply. I make an effort to fill my belly. I notice that I am alive and breathing.

Over the next several hours they will gradually reduce the amount of oxygen feeding my father’s mask. Soon he will die.

*     *     *

With love to my father, who passed away last Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

May his breath become the air that fills us with life.

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Not a Great Day

thumbs-down

“I am so angry now. I’m seething. My mouth is taut, teeth grinding. My fists are clenched. My 18 month old is screaming. Mostly because I don’t have it in me to show her affection right now. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth.”

That is all the more I wrote during the 2.5 hours I set aside to write this afternoon. Baby Girl fell asleep on the 10 minute drive to Big Sister’s preschool and decided that was going to be enough for her.

That’s not entirely true. She did eventually wear herself out crying and crashed on my chest. It took me another 20 minutes or so of chanting mantra before I was able to forgive her. I know she doesn’t understand. That’s just not always enough.

I spent the remaining hour screwing around with my work email. I worried about a lot of things when I started this business, but let me tell you. The technicalities of sending an email was not one of them.

The doorbell rang exactly one minute before I needed to leave to pick up Big Sister from school. Baby Girl woke up with a start and exclaimed, “Oh no! Door!” Oh no was right. Santa via Grandma via Amazon left four packages on our doorstep and one was the size of a refrigerator. So I frantically dragged the refrigerator* downstairs and hid it in our storage room while Baby Girl yelled and cried over the jolt awake.

And would you believe it? There was another big box sitting on the front porch when we arrived home from preschool pickup. I know I should be grateful for all the gifts. I mean, really, talk about first world problems. But I just wasn’t feeling the box stashing frenzy today. Especially when I’m tripping over all the crap we already have.

A cardboard dinosaur from a Chick-fil-A kid’s meal. Glitter pens missing caps. Five or ten or fifty Ziplock bags, each filled with 3-5 pieces of confetti. About 500 million pictures, artistic creations of Big Sister’s, each so special that we cannot get rid of a single one. Shiny rocks and dried leaves. Old Lego catalogs. An egg carton filled with sand. Miscellaneous barrettes and hair ties. Days old sippy cups and dry Cheerios. All of it just strewn about. Crap layered atop layers of more crap. Crap layered atop layers of more crap. #kids #toomuchstuff Click To Tweet

And to top it all off is…

THE LAUNDRY.

My neighbor watched the girls for a couple hours later in the afternoon so I could go to yoga. On my drive there I thought about this post and how nice it would be to include a happy ending. You know, something about how yoga brought me back to my peaceful center.

Sorry friends. That’s not how this is going to play out. I just kept on feeling pissed. Pissed that we started off an Active Flow class with fucking neck rolls. The thermostat was set at 72 F and I still had to keep my sweater on for a third of the class.

The girls ate pasta with butter for dinner because the tomato sauce in the back of the fridge had gone moldy, and Baby Girl still felt greasy when I nursed her to sleep. Then Big Sister got out of bed because she just had to show me how she’d put two little Perler Bead fish in her crayon box. Then the temperature alarm on my husband’s fermenting home brew went off. Did I mention he’s out of town? I’m feeling a little burnt out. Oh, and then Baby Girl woke up.

Now I’m stress eating chocolate chips because that’s all the sugar we have in the house. That reminds me. I need to go grocery shopping.

I’m pausing here for a moment. “I need to go grocery shopping.” That would make a fine ending, don’t you think? Do I need to say something more profound to tie this all together? What’s the lesson here?

Not everyday is a great day. There’s always more to do. Don’t bother cleaning too much. Go to yoga instead. It’s okay to feel angry. Make time for yourself. And next time you go grocery shopping, remember to buy the good chocolate.

Don't bother cleaning too much. Go to #yoga instead. Click To Tweet

*No, of course it wasn’t actually a refrigerator.

Photo Credit: Thumbs down by Juhan Sonin is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Text added to original