Malas for Power and Presence

I like malas. There's something powerful about wearing them- like they give off energy that encapsulates you, empowers you, and protects you. When I did yoga teacher training, we practiced abhyanga, the practice of self-massage with warm oils. I remember our instructor telling us that she felt like she was "putting on her armor against the world." This is how I feel with malas. When I wear a mala, I feel like there is something more to me- that I am somehow connected and separate from everything around me. 

The other day at work I was interviewed for a book. I was really nervous. I wanted to represent myself, my students, and my profession well. This is my "Year of Gratitude" and I wanted to embody my gratefulness for the opportunity to present myself and my students and not let my nerves overpower me. I chose to wear a mala that morning that had the intention of finding peace. During the interview, when I was talking, I held the stone in my hand. I think it's become a nervous habit, but one I'm really proud to own (let's not talk about nail biting!). As I held it, and thought of their deep questions about race and belonging, my mind settled. I was able to clearly and, with pause, find the right words to express my ideas. It was so surreal. 

As I move through my "Year of Gratitude," I want to be more mindful of setting intentions for my days and with my malas. I found that in those moments, when I'm nervous or have a big "thing" to do, touching the mala is almost a mini-meditation. That just by setting and verbalizing my intention or hope for that experience, I can reset myself to be clear and calm. How cool is that? 

I wanted to share some of my favorite intentions that I'm hoping to channel in my "Year of Gratitude"

- Do good and good will come to you.

- You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. 

- Important encounters are planned by souls long before the bodies see each other. 

- I am building myself. 

- Live the life you dreamt. 

- Be grateful. Every day. For every thing. 

So when I want to be powerful, and present, and remember my intention, I will come back to that nervous touch of my mala. I will try to remember not to be nervous, and instead to channel my gratitude for this moment. 

6 Ways to Make Your Home More Environmentally Friendly

“In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations”- from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy.

If nothing in your immediate life spurs you to action, does this? Our actions not only impact us, our bodies, our friends, our family, and also people we will never meet. Our impact, especially our environmental impact, will be felt by people in 200 years or more. Wow, right?! We are so small, yet our environmental and ethical footprint is giant.

So, what can we do for those future strangers? Here are six tips, I developed with the assistance of this graphic from Arhaus to help us all live in a more environmentally-friendly way.

 

Let There Be Light

Whatever happened to mood lighting? I love a good, romantic dim room for dinner parties. I’ve purchased some white, LED string lights and I hung them in my dining room. It’s awesome. It keeps the room feeling warm and special all year long. And, when I’m really trying to impress my husband, I light candles. I love a good taper candle. There’s something so authentic about conversing as a candle melts away. It makes me feel like I’m really living in the moment and not just waiting for the moment to come. To preserve our light and, save our electricity bill, we always, always, always (did I say always?!) turn our lights off when we leave the room. You done in the bathroom? Lights off! Getting in the shower in the morning? You do not need your bedroom light on! Less is always more (money in your pocket!)

Organic Fabrics

Want to nap? I love my Bambeco bed sheets. They are so soft and well made. They are pricey, but they last forever! You can also find furniture options that are made with organic fabrics, like the sectional sofas from Arhaus, which are easier on your skin and the air quality in your home.

Now, I’m going to throw it way back. Ready? Buy cloth napkins! How often do you use a paper napkin during the day? I know for me, for a long time, it was like five times a day. Not anymore! I have some really cute cloth napkins that I use for everything. Cloth napkins + taper candles = awesome dinner party! While you are buying your cloth napkins, buy some cloth dishrags (or, if you got them skillz, crochet them!). These can easily be thrown in the washer after doing a few loads of dishes by hand (yup, ditch the dishwasher!) and they last a long time. Sponges are icky. Say no to sponges!

So Fresh and So Clean

So about this dishwasher thing. I’m serious. Ditch the dishwasher! Someone once told me I do dishes like a European (can a European reader confirm or deny this!?). I have a dish tub in my sink and a drying rack with a drying mat. I fill up my dish tub with my Seventh Generation dish soap, let them soak, then scrub them with my crocheted dish cloth, and let them dry over night in the drying rack. I put them away in the morning. It’s so easy. Try it. I find doing dishes very therapeutic 

Refurbish and Reuse

This is hard, sometimes. My mom is the queen of the refinished table. I’m lucky to have her to make my yard sale finds beautiful. However, and don’t tell her, I recently got a mark on a table and it won’t come off. So I’m going to have to buy some sandpaper and refinish it. Will it be perfect? Probably not. I will have done it though and that is pretty cool. Check your local area because I would bet there are some cool makers out there who are doing fun things with refinishing furniture. Always good to support a local business or take a ask at your local hardware store for some tips on getting started!

Go With the Low-Flow

I rent my apartment. My advice to all renters, and homeowners, but especially renters, is to buy a new shower head. You do not know what people have done and, more often than not, old shower heads are nasty! Get a low flow one with fun settings and your newly massaged scalp will thank you. So will your water bill.

Dry Fewer Clothes

If you own a home, most new dryers have energy saver settings where the dryer runs for longer, but pulls less energy. Love it. It’s the same thing and you have 30 more minutes, I promise. And, many organic clothes ask that you line dry them. I bought a portable drying rack about a year ago and I was shocked by how many things I could actually dry on that rack. I use my dryer much less. If you live in a place where you can put it outside, that’s even better because your clothes will smell like nature. Mmm!

Keeping Christmas Throughout the Year

Firstly, this article is not about Christmas. I appreciated Erin’s email to the Bad Yogi fam about how this season is often a time to express gratitude and to reflect on our many blessings (sounds so antiquated, but yes, #blessed). My favorite thing about Christmas has never been Christmas. It has always been the idea that for 4-6 weeks people are kind, generous, patient, and joyous. I love it and it always pains me to see this season end. We revert to our quiet, isolated, hurried, stressed lives. And is it just me or do we slam on those breaks real quick, sometimes?

A few weeks ago I was introduced to this poem and I wanted to share. I invite us all to “keep Christmas” this entire year.

 

Henry Van Dyke

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing…

  • to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
  • to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
  • to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
  • to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
  • to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
  • to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.

Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing…

  • to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
  • to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
  • to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
  • to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
  • to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
  • to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
  • to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

  • to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—
  • stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—
  • and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?

Then you can keep Christmas.And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

Six Days of the Week,
NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1924 and 1952.

The 7 Stages of Going Fully Vegan

 

THE 7 STAGES OF GOING FULLY VEGAN

KAITLIN MORANDECEMBER 1, 2017

ADVICEFOOD & RECIPESHEALTH & WELLNESSPOPULAR3 COMMENTS 0

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You can’t become a full-time vegan overnight. Or, you can, but all you will do is tell all your friends and later sneak a piece of cheese (goat cheese amiright?!)

It took me a long time to become vegan, and even now I’m only strictly vegan-at-home (it’s an official thing I just made up, roll with me). This is sustainable and realistic for me right now. Here’s how I did it.

Stage 1: Change to ethical cleaning products.

Run out of toilet paper? Buy Seventh Generation. Their slogan makes my heart happy. Run out of hand soap? How about some Mrs. Meyers? I recommend their Apple Cider and Mum scents for fall!

Stage 2: Change to ethical personal care products.

Scared of the chemicals in tampons? Check out Veeda or Thinx. Need condoms? Look at Sustain. Make-up? Ask Erin Motz and check out her cool Q and A on ethical beauty products (I don’t wear make-up, so don’t ask me!).

Stage 3: Recycle or donate old clothes and buy new clothes from sustainable manufacturers.

Pata-gucci no more. Patagonia has very reasonable and long-lasting products. Are you a yoga teacher? Check out Prana. They have great deals for yoga teachers. Check out Miakoda for the best in slouchies and stylish activewear because who wants real waistbands? Download the DoneGood (donegood.co) chrome extension to search all sorts of ethical brands across the world.

Stage 4: Stop eating meat.

For some, probably psychological, reason it’s easier to stop eating meat than it is to stop eating, say, goat cheese. Maybe try to stop eating meat 1-2 days a week and see how you feel. I recommend going a number of days in a row so you can really feel the physical difference.

Stage 5: Compost.

Don’t throw all your new veggie scraps into a landfill. Invest in a compost bucket or partner with a local company to come and collect your veggie scraps (there will be lots and it will be awesome!) if you don’t have citywide compost pick-up where you live.

Stage 6: Commit.

Run out of eggs? Don’t buy more. Decide whether you really miss and need them. No more yogurt? Try coconut yogurt instead. Or mix bananas, dates, peanut butter, and almond milk in a smoothie. You will enjoy it more than yogurt, promise.

Stage 7: Forgive yourself.

If you eat butter, you eat butter. You’re trying. It’s a process and no one is perfect all the time, even vegans.

Why Young People Need Yoga

The other day my student was absent from school. I teach in a big city. Absence is not, on its own, unusual. Students balance school, jobs, family responsibilities (including caring for younger siblings and translating at appointments with lawyers and medical professionals), and myriad other things. This student is an immigrant. This student lives alone and pays rent. This student works 45-50 hours a week outside school. This student was absent.

I learned when this student came back that they had been in the hospital. The doctor said they did not need medicine, but that their body was reacting to the incredible stress they were under. Stress was literally making them sick. And that makes me sick.

In the US, we talk about failing schools and the crisis of children crossing the border. We do not talk enough about the mental health toll of that crossing, that life, that existence. We do not talk about how to best educate young people who are responsible for their own health and welfare without any adult supervision. We do not talk about the right things.

I had nothing concrete to offer.

The student can’t quit the job because then they can’t buy food or pay rent. The student can’t stop coming to school because a high school diploma is an important indicator of future success in the US.

So, I offered yoga. I downloaded the “Calm” app onto the student’s phone. Will yoga change this student’s life? You know what? Probably not. But it might help this student feel a bit better. It might help this student escape from the incredible pressures of survival. Because, my friends, we are not talking about the life we want and hope for young people in the United States. In the case of this student, and many other young people, we are talking about primitive survival, how to avoid sleeping on the street, how to keep yourself safe and alive.

We have to figure out how to offer yoga.

Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. If you are a teacher, offer quiet time in each class. If you are a professional and employ young people in a full or part-time job, check in as a human. How are they? If you are a restaurant owner and your business success depends on the flexibility of an immigrant workforce, remember this is a human being in front of you, not just a worker. If you are a yoga studio owner, offer free, yes free, classes to high school students. If you are a random stranger on the street and you see a young person who looks stressed, smile. Do not underestimate the power of a human connection, especially to someone who is thousands of miles away from everyone and everything they have known.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to this student, but I do know we all need to band together and do something to protect, stabilize, enrich, and calm our young people.

How Yoga Made Me Believe in God

 

HOW YOGA MADE ME BELIEVE IN GOD

KAITLIN MORANNOVEMBER 5, 2017

OFF THE MAT YOGA1 COMMENT 1

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Growing up, I always said “yes” to believing in god because that was the “right” answer. Through confirmation, through being questioned by friends, through college, it was always too taboo to say “no” or “I don’t know.” Despite my unequivocal “yes,” I never really knew that yes was the right answer. Do I believe a white man with a long, flowing beard and semi-magical powers is floating around above the clouds? Isn’t that what my teachers told me?

Catechism (holla to all my CCD homies!) taught me that god had rules and if you broke those rules you should feel guilty. Catholic guilt is so real! I remember seeing The 10 Commandments on TV around Easter and being absolutely terrified of god. The power! High school history taught me all monotheistic religions followed the samegod somewhere in the sky throwin’ down laws that were all pretty similar. Yet, I still pictured the old man with his sparkling robes. In college, I started to understand some differences in beliefs among religious creeds, but still thought the correct answer was “yes” no matter the nuance of the question. To me, I thought god had to be a person who set guidelines for our life. I thought that was the correct answer.

Yoga changed that for me.

In yoga, god is everywhere. In yoga, god stopped being a thing and became all the things. Yoga helped me see the connections between all of us- the om. Traditionally, yogis believe that everything in the universe vibrates to the sound of om (pronounced ah-oo-mm). That’s god to me. The connection between everyone, everything, every one and every thing.

There’s not a lot of good news lately and it’s easy to feel bogged down in the hopelessness of it all. I’m trying to remember the god, the om, the connection in those moments. Despite the suffering, in spite of the suffering, we are all connected. I feel the pain of others, I hope others feel my empathy, compassion, and love. I pray for them- in my om, in my meditation, in my being.

Hips Don't Lie

Yoga Teacher Training taught me many things. One of the most interesting was that we hold a great deal of emotion in our hips.

Think about it… when your body is stressed your nervous system primes itself to fight or flee. The hormones you need do do those things rush to your biggest muscles (like your quads, glutes, hamstrings), so that if you had to take action either running or punching your muscles would be ready. But, what happens when you don’t fight or flee? What happens when your boss pisses you off and you have to just go sit at your desk and get over it? Well, those hormones “sink” into your muscles and start to build. Over time, that gunk can make us feel really tight and uncomfortable.

As we release our hips, it can be a very emotional experience. Ever feel like crying when you stretch your quad? Ever get really angry when you come out of reclined bound angle pose? Good news- you’re not crazy! We can feel all kinds of emotions that we weren’t expecting as we start to move those muscles.

Here are three of my go-to hip exercises to help release any built up gunk.

  1. Move your left knee flush with a wall behind you and bend your right leg, stacking ankle under knee. If you’re really tight, place your hands on blocks or books. If it feels ok, bring your hands onto your bent right leg and see if you can lean back into the wall. This may feel really intense, so find that sweet spot between ease and challenge. Hold for at least 3 minutes if you have the time before switching legs.
  2. Lay on your back and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. If you have a bolster, or pillows, lay back on these with the top of the pillow at the back of your pelvis. If your hips are really tight, place blocks or pillows under your outer thighs. If you want to challenge yourself, place a blanket (or someone once recommended sandbags!) over your thighs. You can also lightly drape your hands on your inner thighs. Hold for 5-7 minutes and then use your hands to slowly guide your knees together. Notice the sensations in your hips. Give yourself a few breaths to feel those feelings.
  3. Lunges are your hips friend and there are so many variations. If you like low lunge, place a blanket under your back knee and don’t be afraid to bend over your front knee (the risk of knee injury is lower in low lunge than in a high lunge because there isn’t as much body weight pressure on your front knee). Bend until you feel your hip flexor fire up and then stay there for 3-5 minutes. If you like runner’s lunge, bring your hands to the inside of your front leg and lift your back leg. Reach your collar bones forward and imagine a thread pulling your back hip flexor in line with the top of your head. This will help you reach forward. Stay and breathe for 3-5 minutes before switching sides.

In Praise of Hillary Clinton's Yoga

I recently read an article in The Atlantic by James Hamblin that commented on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s practice of alternate-nostril breathing (nadi shodhana in Sanskrit). I was struck by the author’s obvious dismissiveness of this practice and HRC’s commitment to devoting space to explaining how-to in her new book. Was it sexism? Is he anti-yoga? Is he just always skeptical of non-western medicine?

Stressed? Well, duh…

In her book, HRC writes that she, “did yoga with my instructor, especially breath work.” For many women who, like HRC, are bombarded with ridiculous expectations at all levels all day, breath work is essential. Finding those few moments of quiet, of calm, of respite from the chaos of daily life is essential to continuing to be a high-powered woman. Yet, Hamblin dismisses this practice saying twice how HRC wrote this book while deeply stressed. I bet she was deeply stressed! Any person with any sense of moral righteousness has been deeply stressed since Donald the Douche “won” the election. This is not unique to HRC, nor does it discount her theories, as Hamblin so desperately wants it to.

Hamblin goes on to say that any studies of breath work have had few participants and only been published in yoga-centered texts. I also don’t doubt that! Can you imagine a control group that is not allowed to think about their breath? I feel it’s so obvious that there can’t be a scientific study of breath control. He also writes, “These sorts of rituals work because we believe they work.” So does placebo. Sometimes, in the fast-paced chaos of today’s world, that’s all we need… a little belief. A little break from someone telling us how to feel, how to dress, how to smile, and a moment to tell ourselves we have got this, we are calm, we are worthy. This is true of women. This is true of people of all genders. This is true of the modern world.

I think it’s pretty awesome that HRC does yoga and that she devotes space in her book to describing how to do pranayam. In teaching yoga to high school students, I have found alternate nostril breathing an incredibly easy and effective technique for teenagers to implement. In my own practice as a high-powered (in my own context) woman of the world, I find alternate breathing essential in helping me focus and tap into my full presence.

The Dalai Lama said a few years ago that the Western woman was destined to save the world. HRC does yoga. She changed the world. I bet if we all do a little nadi shodhana instead of lightning-quick, reactive judgements of people, especially women in power, the world would be a better place.

TEACHER TALK: FROM STUDENTS TO TEACHERS

Hi, y’all! This is the fifth in a series of articles featuring “letters” (ok, emails) between two of our regular contributors, Chuck and Kaitlin. Chuck and Kaitlin are both starting yoga teacher training this summer, and they’ll be writing back and forth about the process. We’ll just be over here, spyin’ on their emails and getting an awesome insight into their journeys to become yoga teachers. Read the last installment here!

Hi Kaitlin,

How have you been? Are you teaching lots of classes?

Guess what … I’m done with Yoga Teacher Training! I promised to let you know how my graduation went, so here’s the scoop!

The last day of our training, the seven of us were required to team-teach a free community class at our studio (discovermantra.com). In addition to the usual Sunday-at-noon crowd, lots of friends and family were in attendance, so it was packed. Seeing all these people waiting for us did NOT alleviate my nervousness.

Once we got going, though, it was great to see my fellow trainees teaching, and when it was my turn, I actually was able to relax and enjoy it. I taught Eagle and Tree pose; my teacher had challenged me, because I’m a “writer,” to come up with something lyrical about Tree pose. This had me stumped for a while, but that morning I thought of how being a tree means you get to be strong AND flexible … deeply rooted in the earth AND free to sway in the breeze. (What do you think? It seemed to go over pretty well!)

After class, we gathered with our teacher and our family and friends in the community center of the studio. We’d been joking a lot that week about what we all should wear: All in white? In rainbow colors? As our favorite chakra? (We ended up staying in our yoga wear from teaching, and that was fine.)

Our teacher said some wonderful things about each of us as she handed us our certificates. After the ceremony, I thanked my wife for being so supportive of me, and my fellow trainees (who now call themselves my “moon sisters” and me their “sun brother”) for being there for me. Truth be told, my last couple of practice-teaching attempts had been pretty awful in my estimation. But my moon sisters (and my teacher) sent me lots of love and positive energy, throughout the training … and especially on the last day, when I needed it most.

 

Oh, one more thing I was going to follow up on with you … our final exam! When I heard it would be a take-home test, I figured it would be relatively easy. I changed my mind after spending about six hours recalling, researching, and writing the answers to 14 pages’ worth of questions (on Sanskrit, anatomy, yoga philosophy, and more).

So what’s next? Am I prepared to proclaim, “I’m a yoga teacher!” as confidently as you did? I’m not quite there yet; I still have some more class observations, and hands-on adjustment practice (not to mention some more actual teaching!) to go before I can really feel it. What I CAN say, with total confidence, is: “I went through 200-hour yoga teacher training in nine weeks … and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Best,
Chuck 🙂

Hi Chuck,

CONGRATULATIONS! I love this. It looks like a super intimate, loving group. I love your metaphor about tree. Tree’s my favorite pose (or should I say vrkasana?!!) and it’s totally because I feel strong and flexible and my arms can blow in the wind (too much, did I take it too far?!).

I totally hear you on the “I completed it and I’ve got a long way to go” thought. I haven’t taught any classes since I graduated (I teach high school, school started almost immediately after training and it’s been bonkers ever since, and starting in two weeks I’ll be teaching my students). This has left me feeling on the outs from the yoga bubble. I think what’s been most helpful in trying to reconcile this is my home practice. It was hard going from an intensive yoga training to not-an-intensive yoga training. I’ve been trying to take it in stride and listen to my body. It’s fun to do free-flowing practices at home, knowing I can align and correct myself much more confidently than before, but I’ve been terrible about prioritizing them. My other biggest commitments from the training have been my eating practices and and evening gratitude. My husband and I are “vegan at home” now and so far it’s going really well. I have found myself not missing animal products as much as I thought, but I am still up for a chocolate chip cookie when I’m not home! I have also found it helpful to pause before dinner and say “grace”- not in the traditional, Christian sense, but in a reflective, “I am so blessed this is my life” sense. Aside from these moments, it’s hard to find that time to do yoga “justice” sometimes when work is busy. I’m curious to see what practices you adopt into your daily routine.

I too want to do some more hands-on practice, which I can’t do with high school students, so once school settles down, I need to cultivate some time for myself and find a space to do it. It’s intimidating though! It’s such an intimate experience, and I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to do it justice. I love getting adjusted and I want others to feel that bliss! Does your studio offer you the option to practice adjustments there? The best things I’ve done so far are register with Yoga Alliance and make a website. I think it’s definitely worth it to register with Yoga Alliance for some of the amazing things they offer members (discounts, continuing education, a platform to market yourself). I used SquareSpace for my website and I found it really user-friendly, but I totally need to take yoga pictures… ugh, so awkward though!

I can’t wait to hear about your post- YTT adventures. Congratulations! Let’s keep in touch!

Be well,
Kaitlin

WTF is Fascia?

If you read my other posts, you know I am in the middle of my 200 hour teacher training! We’ve had a few full days devoted to anatomy, including the study of fascia. First, I was like WTF is fascia?! And now I’m like, stunned I never knew this before! So here’s a fascia 101 for anyone looking to better understand their body.

So seriously, WTF is fascia?

Fascia is thin fibrous material that encompasses everything on your insides, like an envelope. Imagine your muscles and the connective tissue that wraps around them and connects to other points in your body — that’s fascia. It literally wraps everything. It can be fibrous, gel-like, or liquid-like.

Then there are fascial chains throughout your body. For example, your frontal fascial chain starts at the top of your foot, continue up your shin, over your quad, up the side of your hip, through your inner ribs, and then up to your hyoid bone and the side of your face. It’s all connected! That’s why sometimes you hear about releasing your legs to help with a release in your jaw… crazy right!

Anatomists looooove to talk about fascia. There’s even an entire RESEARCH CONGRESS dedicated fascia (check it out!). But, why should we care? Learning about fascial chains can be helpful in learning to sequence either for yourself or for your yoga classes (if you go the teacher route). It can also help us understand things going on in our own bodies. And it’s just really cool! If you know the connections between muscles and muscle groups you can plan a practice that will help relieve and stretch throughout your body. Plus, isn’t it super fun to nerd out?!!

Yoga Teacher Training Diary #2

TEACHER TALK: I’M A YOGA TEACHER!

Hi, y’all! This is the fourth in a series of articles featuring “letters” (ok, emails) between two of our regular contributors, Chuck and Kaitlin. Chuck and Kaitlin are both starting yoga teacher training this summer, and they’ll be writing back and forth about the process. We’ll just be over here, spyin’ on their emails and getting an awesome insight into their journeys to become yoga teachers. Read the last installment here!

Hi Chuck!

I’M A YOGA TEACHER! I can’t believe it’s over. It’s remarkable how fast the intensive went by. I am shocked.

Let me tell you about the last week. We had a few sessions on the Bhagavad Gita. It’s such an interesting text. And the “prequel” is even more interesting. Did you talk about it? We also had a few sessions on Non-Violent Communication. This was so interesting. It’s a way of observing the world and reacting to the world without immediately feeling triggered. It has been used in prisons throughout the US with the hopes of helping people better empathize and understand the needs of others. Really fascinating stuff that I’m curious to continue exploring. Check out Marshall Rosenberg if you haven’t talked about this at your training. We also did some visioning on our yoga careers and paths. It was really powerful.

And, then, the tests! We had our written exam Wednesday. I ended with a 91, but I definitely didn’t remember everything (I said the piriformis was in the knee- it’s in the ass! woops!), and I was surprised at how much Sanskrit I could use and remember. We had a team practicum on Thursday. In groups of 4 we had to teach a 90 minute vinyasa. I taught the first 20 minutes and I got good feedback on my voice, and I definitely need to continue to improve my assists and adjusts (I just never know how hard to hold/press/etc). On Friday, we had our graduation. We all dressed in white and had a vegan lunch outdoors near a rose garden then had the most beautiful, touching, indescribable graduation ceremony. It was magical. Here’s a picture of me ugly crying as I hug one of my teachers- apparently being blissed out doesn’t stop ugly crying #badyogi hahahaha.

Tell me everything! Are you almost done? When can I come to Cali and take your class?!

Hi Kaitlin,

First off … CONGRATULATIONS! So thrilled you made it through (and enjoyed) your Yoga Teacher Training. And I love that you’re flat-out declaring yourself to be a yoga teacher … what a great way to begin anew now that your training is over (for now, anyway … how are you thinking of continuing your yoga-related education?).

As I’m writing, I still have two-and-a-half weeks to go, so I’ll bring you up to speed on what’s been happening. We had our inversions session, taught by a yogini who makes head- and handstands look effortless. It’s not her fault I’m still struggling to get into Crow pose! I straight up admitted to the teacher and my YTT tribe-mates that I’m, yes, terrified to try inversions that aren’t a forward fold. But everyone was very supportive, and though I still have a long way to go before I start busting out impromptu handstands, it was a really positive session.

Since we last emailed, I’ve also had classes on Sanskrit, using props, working with special populations, and the anatomy of the breath. I’ll let you know if I’m able to do as well as you on the Sanskrit part of our final exam! Though we’ve heard a few excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita, we’ve focused more on the Yoga Sutras. I’d bought and read a translation of them early in my training, but now that our teachers have broken it down for us a bit, I’m amazed at how much more I’m able to “get” … and how much deeper there is to go. (Side note: I went to the beach and read my Yoga Sutras book during the recent solar eclipse!)

So what’s left? Sessions on adjustments/assists, more breakdowns of poses, and the business aspects of yoga. Not to mention lots of studying and practice teaching … once I graduate, I’ll have time to check out all the authors, texts, etc. that you’ve been recommending!

Speaking of graduation, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to say “I’m a yoga teacher!” right away … but that could change. One thing I DO know I’ll say at the end of YTT is, “Wow, that was awesome!”

Let’s keep in touch – I’ll be very interested to hear how your first post-training weeks are going, and I’ll fill you in on my graduation ceremony!

Funemployment!

 

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY MY FUNEMPLOYMENT

I was laid off this week. For all of you that have ever been there, I so feel you. As a teacher, I’ve been laid off countless times before, but this one was unexpected. So, what do you do when you find yourself unexpectedly unemployed? One of my friends told me I was funemployed (fun + unemployed = funemployed). She said I should use this time to find the fun in the every day that I was missing while at work and use that to try to craft my next steps.Obviously there’s a lot of privilege in being able to see unexpected time off work as a good thing, and I’m not blind to that, but if you find yourself in that situation, here are some ideas! So, here’s what I did:

Went to yoga.

After being laid off, there’s a million things racing through your mind (What did I do? Why is this happening? Will I ever find a job again?) and yoga is a nice, quiet place to calm down. I intentionally took a class that was physically exhausting, so that for those 75 minutes I could only focus on breathing and moving my body. It really helped pause the questions and it made me feel accomplished.

Went kayaking.

There’s nothing quite so restorative and curative as being in nature. Kayaking is a nice respite from the craziness of the city. You can paddle as hard as you want or float contemplatively. I found both to be a nice way to channel my feelings and allow myself, again, some space to breathe and move my body.

Met friends for coffee.

If you’re like me and you lose your job, you immediately start thinking of all the ways you can shore up money (we will sell this and this and I won’t replace this). However, I went to meet some friends for coffee and I compromised with myself by only drinking water. I got the social experience without the cash and it was much needed. They were able to provide me with many laughs, and a whole bunch of “down with the man” talk, and, the perhaps even healthier talk, “what can we do together from here?” Part of funemployment is finding the joy in your friends and realizing they love you and want to help you move forward.

Talked to everyone.

Arguably the hardest part of going from working long hours to crash landing and working zero is that you lose person-to-person interaction.  Now, all of those feelings that you feel all day don’t have an outlet, so you end up taking the silliness and the frustration out on your partner or your roommate. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends what happened. They will have your back! Even more so, tap into your networks immediately. This is a different type of fun, but it will make you feel better. You have networks for a reason and this is one of those reasons. My mentors were incredibly helpful and supportive.

Meditated.

I spent many hours meditating on the idea of what I wanted to do next. I did this laying outside by myself, or walking with my husband, or talking to my cat. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next and started to think about what I really wanted to do next. Seize this opportunity because “when one door closes another one opens” and “everything happens for a reason” and “good things happen to good people.”

I know you’re feeling low right now. I was, and I still am. But I know things will be ok- they will be more than ok. You are strong. You are talented. You are beautiful. You got this!

P.S. In between writing and publishing this, I got a job! And it’s great! “Better things fall apart so better things can fall together.” YOU GOT THIS!

Yoga Teacher Training Diary

 

TEACHER TALK: DIVING INTO DAY ONE OF YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

Hi, y’all! This is the second in a series of articles featuring “letters” (ok, emails) between two of our regular contributors, Chuck and Kaitlin. Chuck and Kaitlin are both starting yoga teacher training this summer, and they’ll be writing back and forth about the process. We’ll just be over here, spyin’ on their emails and getting an awesome insight into their journeys to become yoga teachers. Read part one here!

Hi Chuck,

How was your first week of YTT? Mine starts next Wednesday and I’m getting excited / nervous!

We were asked to watch a video on non-violent communication in preparation. It was interesting, but a little long, and I need to talk to people about how to really do it. We also had to buy five books and read the introductions to each. Luckily, the introductions were all only about 3 pages each. Some are really beautiful anatomy books on musculature and bone structure and others are more classic yoga texts. It’s an interesting mix, which has left me feeling a little unsure of how this is all going to play out.

Anyway, tell me everything!

Be well,
Kaitlin

Hi Kaitlin,

Sounds like you had quite a bit of pre-work prior to your first Yoga Teacher Training! I can tell you, I’m not even two weeks in and it’s been like drinking from a firehose. So much to learn!

The first session, my fellow students and I did some “get-to-know-you” exercises with one of our teachers. We each introduced ourselves and talked a bit about what we love about yoga, and why we decided to take the teacher-training journey. We have two “main” teachers and three or four guest lecturers, and our class consists of eight of us. I’m the only male in the class, but as a married father of two daughters, I have plenty of experience in female-majority environments 🙂

After that, we dived right into an entire weekend of anatomy lectures. As a result, I finally know what “psoas” means! Seriously, it was great; we discussed muscles, bones, fascia, tendons, ligaments, and more. I found the anatomy lessons very enlightening … both with regard to my own practice, and with helping my future students get the most out of their practices while avoiding injury.

This week, we shifted gears big-time … jumping into the history of yoga, as well as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I had always thought there might be more to yoga than Downward Dog and Lululemon 😉 and wow, is there ever. My big takeaway, of course, was that the physical postures (asanas) are just a fraction of what yoga is all about.

Oh, and in between, of course, we’ve been learning how to teach. For our first exercise, each of us had to come to the front of the room, one by one, and guide our classmates into postures using only “Simon says”-style directions! It was much more difficult than it sounds. Eventually we’ll be able to teach an hour-long level one/beginner class, but that still seems like a long way off.

I have a long reading list, too. In fact, I should probably hit the books about now … next session is in two days.

Hope you are well … namaste!
Chuck

Hi Chuck,

WOW! Day 1 done! I was all nerves last night!

I got to the studio this morning and there are 16 of us- 15 women and 1 man! We started our day with a 90 minute vinyasa practice followed by a get-to-know you activity. We learned everyone’s most cringe worthy yoga pose (mine is malasana and there were a lot of dolphin poses and camel poses too!). Then we reviewed the ethics of teaching yoga and our options for certification. It was pretty standard “respect stuff” but also touched on your intentions as as instructor. It was interesting to the ethics as a two-sided interaction and not just a one-sided action.

After lunch, we reviewed all the poses in a Sun Salutation A. We practiced naming them and learning how they feel in our body. Then we watched and practiced assisting and adjusting for each pose. That was WAY harder than I thought. You think you can teach yoga and then you start and it’s so different! We practiced with partners and then in small groups of four and it was really fun. One of our norms is to give truthful feedback and it was really helpful because I learned I can press harder in an adjustment than I might think! We ended our day with another 60 minute practice, which was super restorative (cue the bolsters and blankets!).

I can’t believe it’s over- 190 hours to go!

Talk soon,
Kaitlin

Recipe: Kale Sald

 

BAD YOGI RECIPE: A KALE SALAD FOR THE MASSES

Kale! You either love it or you hate it. BUT this recipe is for all the doubters. Even if you “hate” kale with a passion, give this a try. I can almost guarantee your tastebuds will thank you!

For the salad:

  • 2 bunches of kale (either curly kale or straight (lacinto/dinosaur) kale work
  • 5 radishes
  • 4 dates
  • parmesan cheese

For the dressing:

  • Olive oil
  • salt
  • Vinegar (red wine or balsamic depending on your preference)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Honey

Cut the kale into thin slices (if you have the ability to shred it, you can also shred it, but cutting works fine). Throw in a bowl. Slice the radishes really thin, like see through thin. Throw in the bowl with the kale. Slice the dates. Throw in the bowl. Top with as much parmesan cheese as your little heart desires.

To make the dressing, whisk 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of honey together in a small bowl. Pour that dressing over the salad.

The key to kale is making it softer and less bitter, so using your hands work the dressing into the kale mixture (massage the kale!) for about 30 seconds. This will soften it up and make it easier to chew!

Serve close-to-immediately after (although it will keep overnight the kale gets a bit too soft for my taste). ENJOY! Did you like it? Did I convert you to kale?

*this recipe is adapted from one found in The Founding Farmers Cookbook- a great cookbook and an even better restaurant in Washington D.C.

Five Ways to Live More Consciously

OFF THE MAT YOGA: 5 WAYS TO LIVE MORE CONSCIOUSLY

So much of the practice of yoga is about connecting to yourself. How can you become a more satisfied person who lives in harmony with your community and your world? There is no “Mission Accomplished” with these ideas. These are no small undertakings.

Each year I try to embody one aspect of yoga and bring it off the mat. It’s my mantra for the year, if you will. Last year was “Year of Body Confidence” and PBYP was perfect for helping me work toward that goal. While I am still overweight and, sometimes, my winter waist prevents me from wearing my summer skirts, I am a more confident person than I was two years ago. This year, my mantra is “Year of Conscious Living.

Explore.

I’ve made a point this year to explore new places and things. I don’t think these have to be grand adventures, but little opportunities to try something new and broaden my horizons. I bought a Middle Eastern cookbook and made Turkish food at home for the first time, which is pretty awesome for an Irish/Italian/American girl. My favorites so far have been cacik and lamb meatballs with tomato stew over rice. I tried two new yoga studios and I loved them both. My husband and I went to Ireland and explored a new country, together. All of these explorations have challenged my thinking and forced me to look at the world from new perspectives and tastes. (Side note: eating a new food is such an interesting way to take on a new perspective!)

Buy less “stuff”.

We moved three times last year and, we all know, moving is the worst. However, moving also helps you realize what you have and what you do not need. I downsized my closet, bookshelf, movies and knickknacks that I had been dragging with me from apartment to apartment. I donated it all to charity or used an app that connects me to my neighbors to give, or trade, “stuff” with neighbors. Americans waste so much each year and if I can be a little part of a solution, then I have made a differnece.

Consciously consume.

From clothes to beauty products to food, I have used this year to educate myself on how things are made. I am trying to only shop at locally owned stores and to buy products that are either made in the USA (ensuring they pay and treat their workers well and that goods do not have to ship across oceans) or are transparent about where and how their products are made. Companies like Pact and Everlane are not made in the US, but they are transparent about who makes their clothes and the conditions in which they work. I also don’t buy any beauty products that are tested on animals, usually it’s easiest to look for the Vegan symbol or the cruelty free rabbit symbol. Doing this helps me feel like I am not taking advantage of people, usually women and children, around the world who are forced to work in less-than-ideal conditions.

Compost!

I started composting this year and it’s awesome! My husband and I have significantly cut down on the garbage we throw away and a local company picks up and drops off new compost buckets for us every two weeks. Living in the city, I thought it would be really daunting, but it’s not and I only wish I had done it sooner. It has really opened my eyes to the volume of food waste I throw away each week.

Challenge!

To me, challenge is different than exploration. Exploration opens my eyes to new things, but isn’t overwhelming. Challenge can be overwhelming, but, this year, I am trying to embrace that feeling. I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training this summer and accepted a Fellowship at a local university to help me teach writing to my students better. I also started to blog for Bad Yogi! All of these things are significantly out of my comfort zone, but if I want to consciously live, I have to feel alive and challenge, for better or worse, makes us feel.

So, here’s to my “Year of Conscious Living” and my attempt to bring those feelings of harmony, acceptance, and universality into my life and off my mat. What do you do to live a more conscious life?

What I learned teaching yoga in high school

THE NEED TO BREATHE: WHAT I LEARNED TEACHING YOGA IN HIGH SCHOOL

For the past two years, for 80 minutes a day, I have taught a semesterised Yoga class at the high school where I mostly teach History. My Yoga class draws males, females, freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, as well as students from every racial background and at multiple levels of English proficiency. All of my students receive free lunch, a marker in American education for low-income families and students. Many of my students have experienced trauma, either from living in poverty, escaping war-torn countries, or immigrating to the United States.

Our class has a pretty set schedule. Structure binds anxiety and I think it’s important for high school students to have routine. We only have one rule- no cell phones. If there’s a pose you cannot do, you are always allowed to self-regulate. Each week, we focus on one mantra. Usually, we begin the semester with “I am perfect” and conclude with “I will breathe.”

Class begins by having students meditate, either sitting or laying in Savasana, for about 15 minutes. I guide them through relaxing major muscle groups, play soft music, and remind them to breathe. I also read inspirational quotes to them. We then transition to about 30 minutes of movement. Students often request to focus on certain body parts or areas. Most often it is the back because students spend all day sitting at school desks and then standing at jobs after school. Some participate more than others. It’s not a perfect system. Finally, we conclude with another 15-20 minutes of Savasana with more soft music, more inspiring quotes (teenagers love quotes!), and then it’s Namaste and dismissal.

But, let’s hear what they have to say. A recent immigrant to the United States who took my Yoga class first period wrote in her journal:

“Yoga has helped me with staying relax and not lazy all the time. For example, when I didn’t do yoga or didn’t have the class I would feel so tired and not be able to concentrate.”

Another student, a very shy senior, wrote:

“I used to feel anxious all the time, but now, I am a little bit more relaxed and clear minded. I never thought that I could even do yoga because of my weight. I thought it was only for fit people. Now, I know I can do yoga and test my flexibility every day. Sometimes, I surprise myself with what my body can do.”

Another student who experienced the loss of a family member during the semester wrote:

“How yoga has helped me is it really helps me clear my thoughts. For example, when we meditate and Ms. Moran speaks and talks about the mantra for the week it makes you feel good. You feel good on the inside and out while you are relaxing and told positive things the whole yoga class.”

Finally, a senior who moved to the United States last year and is still learning English wrote:

“This class help me to challenge myself through poses that allowed me to know myself better and show that I could do whatever I want. Also this class help me to re-frame my thinking about myself because I learn that I’m perfect exactly as I am, I love myself for this reason. I take care of myself and indulge myself with what make me happy.”

To hear students say these things, makes me emotional.

Prior to this class, no one had given them the opportunity to unplug, unwind, and sit in quiet. Being able to practice self-regulation strategies coupled with physical movement is paramount in developing healthy adolescents. I think Yoga, both movement and meditation, should be taught in all American high schools, especially low-income schools, because I have seen it make a lasting difference in the physical, mental, and emotional state of my students, which in turn, has made them better learners who are more able to concentrate and retain information in their academic classes.