Dispensing Compassion & Ahimsa

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In yoga, ahimsa or non-judgement, refers to the state of living in loving kindness toward all beings including ourselves. But sometimes it is the hardest thing to do. Let’s be real. Showing or giving compassion in every situation- particularly conflict- can be hard or frankly annoying. Like why should I? Today, I was walking my two pups through the cemetery. They can be pretty feisty and excitable. An older couple was passing by with their larger dog, and my dogs were tugging to get to their dog. I smiled and said, “sorry” just because I didn’t want to bother them, and instead of a smile back, a “no problem,” they literally let out a big sigh and eye roll of complete annoyance and bothersome towards me because apparently it was the end of the word that my dogs excited theirs.

Let’s face it extending compassion in every situation — particularly conflict — can be hard. My dog example was clearly not one of conflict, but to use another example, why give love to the guy who cut you off in line when you don’t owe him anything? Why? Because you owe it to yourself to find the love and beauty everywhere.

Take note of the image above. Winnie the Pooh author, A.A. Milne once said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. You never know who’s going to come into your life and present you the opportunity to find love. In fact, sometimes the universe sends us challenging people and situations for just that reason.

The next time someone really gets under your skin, rather than building up toxic emotion asking “why me”, ask yourself, “How can I extend compassion here? What am I supposed to offer? What am I supposed to learn? I wish that couple walking their dog read this. A simple smile over an eye roll would have made everyones day better.

“When we get too caught up in the business of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” ― Jack Kornfield

After taking a fall down the stairs leaving a yoga class yesterday morning, today I spend the day on the couch resting my sprained ankle. I have 2 dogs staring at me wondering, “Why is she home?” Maybe this was a wake up call.

Not only my body being forced to rest, so is my mind. Of course, it is thinking of a million things I can accomplish via emails, but truly, it does not need to work right now, it probably needs to slow down. But who wants to slow down? A couple of hours rest feels like an eternity to me. But this is the problem and it is probably the cause of my fall. I was talking a mile a minute after class, about who knows what, thinking about where I was going next, all while reviewing yoga sequences in my brain. Just like everyone else..constantly going, going and going. Is it all too much? Because we are programmed to think there is always more to do, more to think about..and we keep jamming it all in until…something wakes us up.

All of the noise going on in my brain caused me to lose focus, and stumble down. Now, I am very out of my comfort zone and this is truly testing my patience, as I do not like to relax (: But the more we do, the faster we go, and the more we multitask, are we actually accomplishing anything other than detachment from ourselves and others?

So this minor incident is forcing me to stop, relax, calm down, and appreciate what is at least for a couple days. It’s a well needed time to reconnect with myself, and I will view the day as such, returning to my routine hopefully with clarity and new perspective.

Painted caution on road to slow down

Hey Yogi’s! Where Did Our Manner’s Go? The Declination of Yoga Studio Etiquette

Yes, I have checked a text message during a yoga class. Yes, I left early once during svasana and yes, I showed up several minutes late to teach a class. Yes, it was rude and I won’t let it happen again.

BUT… LATELY…

I am SO amazed at the lack of etiquette people display when they come to yoga class. I say this from both a teacher and student perspective.

I started practicing Bikram yoga 10 years ago. It was the only yoga I practiced. I learned the rules of the studio faster than you can say kappulbhati.

I missed several classes because I was 3 minutes late, usually stuck in traffic or something. I would show up and the door was locked. What? You can’t come into class 2 minutes late? The door is locked?

But that’s how they roll. I was so bummed to miss class. On the days that I got there on time (: I took my shoes off, put my belongings in the cubby and I entered the room without a sound. l laid down on my back in svasana with all 30 other practitioners.

No one was doing there own “pre-practice.” No one was practicing danurasana, or natarajasana.

No extra clothing, keys or cellphones were lying on the sides of people mats. It looked clean.

It was FREE FROM DISTRACTION.

My water bottle was strategically placed on the upper right hand corner above my mat as thats where we were instructed to place it.

I was silent. We were all silent. The only one who spoke was the teacher. For 90 loooong minutes. You heard your own breath. You heard your neighbors breath. It was hypnotizing. Yes there were some smiles and giggles when the teacher would make a joke, but overall it was a very focused, quiet environment.

Oh, there are 2 water breaks. No, seriously. You take water when you are instructed to.

I looked up to my Bikram teachers. I was amazed by their grace and knowledge. Of course I had my favorites, but I respected all of them, even if I didn’t like there style or personality. I would NEVER let it show on my face that I was dissapointed.

After class, I thanked the teacher for class. I thanked all teachers. Every-time.

After years of Bikram, I decided to try this thing called vinyasa yoga and try this pose called Down Dog lol. I was hesitant because I was so in love with the rigidness of the Bikram practice. The class always was consistent and I could easily gauge my progress in the asanas as the same 26 poses were repeated in the same order, every class, and I found it hard to think about going to a yoga class where the teacher had a music playlist, and made up her own sequences.

I LOVED THE RESPECT EVERYONE HAD FOR EACH OTHER, THE TEACHER, AND THE STUDIO.

So I tried vinyasa, it was different and I soon was hooked. I remember treating the vinyasa studio I practiced at the same as I did in Bikram. I listened to my teachers. I didn’t do my “own thing” I wanted to learn. I was quiet and I asked questions and thanked my teachers after class.

BUT alot of people did not act this way.

Before the start of class, there was so much chatter in the room, that I questioned whether or not I should bother lying in svasana. I would get really stressed out and upset by this, seriously. I didn’t come here to overhear about the restaurant you ate at or your kids soccer game. I also had trouble just tuning it out.

Cell phones, keys and sweatshirts were on the floor.

yoga-etiquette

High school girls showed up 10 minutes late and plopped their mats down in the FRONT OF THE ROOM.

I noticed students who got too “hot” or maybe “tired” get up and walk out of the room and come back 5 minutes later.

I didn’t get it. There were studio rules posted on the front door. Did anyone care? Did the teacher care?

I rarely heard people thank the teacher and my biggest pet peeve were the people in the class that decided that they were going to modify everything the teacher taught, jumping around, arm balancing, etc…which I found to be very distracting.

As a teacher, I have found one of the most disrespectful things that happens during class, is when a student tries to instruct their neighbor how to get into the pose differently than how the teacher is.

Or even better, when a student “corrects a teacher.” Yes, this happens.

Why have a teacher? Let’s just make class one big free for all. A big ole’ romper room of yogi’s teaching yogi’s and let’s scissor kick our legs up into handstand against mirrors and walls.

Listen, I know this is the real world. We aren’t in India and yoga studios are not ashrams, but c’mon people.

How do you possibly expect to calm your mind and decompress, when your phone is ringing, when your mat space is covered and basically covering your neighbors mat with your car keys, a sweatshirt, a Gatorade and coconut water and lip gloss ( yes I’ve seen lip gloss)?

People carve our 75 minutes of their day for their practice. The packed 6:00 pm class on Tuesday may be the only class they can get to all week. Respect that. Respect each other. Respect your teacher who prepared for your class and who spent more money on gas to get to class to teach you than he/she is getting paid. Respect him/her for being there to share their passion and joy of the practice with you. Respect your studio and let it be your sanctuary. Our lives are hectic enough. Give yourself and others the true gift of yoga with no distractions when you practice.

Oh, and take a Bikram class. It’s a bit of a well needed wake up call for all of us.

Namsate,

Andrea

“IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL DONE.” ENTERING THE YOGA COMMUNITY AS A NEW TEACHER!

“IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL DONE.”

This quote comes from Nelson Mandela, who certainly earned the right to speak about perseverance and hard work. The seemingly impossible is something you can accomplish. You’ve done it before, and it’s important to remember that.

One of the dumbest things we all do in life and work is psyching ourselves out. It’s easy to set up conditions for failure so it’s easy to take when you let it happen. Some tasks only seem impossible because you build them up that way. Others seem impossible because they’re particularly hard. Either way, the point of a challenge is to conquer it and grow. You can’t do that if you concentrate on how difficult it seems.

Yeah, ill admit it. I was totally psyching myself out towards the end of my yoga teacher training. My biggest fear of completing my yoga teacher training was successfully delivering “the class.” This class was the 90..yes NINETY…like one hour and thirty minutes… final class/exam in front of my teacher, my fellow trainees and some family members. The thought of instructing others for 90 minutes seemed impossible. The yoga classes I take at home are 75 minute max…even 1 hour “express” classes. Yes, Bikram yoga classes are 90 minutes, but they are basically scripted. I could remember a script! Cheaters. Somehow I needed to remember to:

Start on time
Properly welcome the class. Whose pregnant!?
Chant- and that means more than one little OM!
Deliver a solid Dharma talk ( life lesson/story) and weave it throughout the class
Physically and verbally assist the students
Have a solid/appropriate playlist
Sequence
Smile
Breathe
End on time

My class was on a Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I took the bus into the city, hopped on the 1 train uptown, and showed up early. I plopped myself down on a bench outside of the studio and tried to chill for a bit. The temperature outside matched my class theme of creating “Fire and Intensity,”perfectly. My mother and sister came to support me. It meant so much to me. They both love yoga and I thank them for letting me practice on them the days leading up to me “recital” lol, as my father called it. Funny, right?

I was tired that day. Like wiped out. I hadn’t been sleeping the past week and I was a bundle of nerves. My skin broke out. Stress. I mean–I had been waking up at 3 am every night replaying Surya Namaskar B in my head over and over, and trying to break down Pigeon pose in Sanskrit…EKA..PADA..RAJA..KAPOT..asana…so I can wow the group by gracefully having the sanskrit roll off my tounge in class (never happened).

So, long story short. I did it. Was it perfect? No? Was it good? I think it was good. The 90 minutes went by really fast. I couldn’t believe it.

My teacher April, gave me feedback post class and handed me my certificate of completion. I was still shaking and honestly I was just so happy. I was really freaking happy. My trainees were dripping sweat. It was a non-hot studio (: Hey the theme was Fire and Intensity. I held strong to my truth and my theme!

I went out to celebrate with my mother and sister and one of the trainees, who I now consider, truly a best friend, Stephanie. She’s been an amazing support system. The next day I woke up and it was all a blur. I was depressed in a sense that it was over. But I kept reminding myself. This is only the beginning.

I have taught 2 charity classes since graduation. The same feelings came back. What will they think? How is my music? Is my class challenging enough? What if I suck and lose my opportunity to teach at a great studio?

But both classes were pretty good! I had about 15 people in my second class and got really positive feedback afterwards. I was wiped out and didn’t sleep the night before each class.

But “Its’ just yoga!” “Relax, don’t be so hard on yourself.” Right?…Not really. I am tired and working hard at this because I love it. If I didn’t care I would sleep like a baby. I am thankful for the great teachers I had when I first started who led me down this path. I remember some of my first classes as a new yogi and they are the classes and teachers that either said, or did something that made me want to come back.

As a new teacher, you don’t know who will be in your new class, a seasoned practitioner or first timer; but if you don’t have a fire and a discipline behind your teaching, it will show through. People feel passion. But remember let yourself be a beginner. My friend Patti just reminded me of this. It is ok to be new. It is okay to be a beginner its just hard for us to accept when we want to be perfect.

As with many things in life, they always seem impossible until they are done.

Until next time.

Namaste,
Andrea

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Yoga Trainees Celebrating! We are really good at celebrating!

SORE, TIRED, YET SMILING. HALFWAY THROUGH A 200 HR YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

Side Planking @ Reebok
FDY Trainees Side Planking @ Reebok

As I am halfway through my yoga teacher training with Fire Dragon Yoga NYC I want to tell you about my experience thus far. I’ve taken 60 yoga classes since April. Today marks 61. Did I just say that? Plus–hours of workshops, reading, writing papers, anatomy study and home practice. Thus, I am, we are (my Fire Dragon Yoga Trainees—see photo on left) sore and tired yogis. We are getting a bit silly as we near the end of training. The nervous energy is building up day by day as we prepare to teach our final class! If we pass (: we will be released into the yoga teacher community! It’s been a remarkable journey thus far. The trainees, now friends, have traveled the subways together, laughed together, shared snacks together ( is that chocolate? I’m starving!) and taken workshops together at the most beautiful studios in NYC, i.e, Sanskrit w/ Manorama @ Maha Padma Yoga Temple, Ashtanga with Laura Land @ Land Yoga, and Anatomy with Frances Taylor Brown @ Zenyasa Yoga. We are learning from the best and we have been lucky ducks to log most of our training hours at the prestigious Reebok Sports Club. But…giving up all these nice weather weekends isn’t always easy. I have been cranky, frustrated and angry at times. I’ve missed my bus, gotten sick, and have struggled with some of the content. I am pretty sure we all have. Also think about this one. 14 women together indoors for 200 hours over 3.5 months. Scary. LOL. My knees hurt and my shoulder has tendonitis..BUT– I feel strong. I have gained muscle. I see my shoulders broadening and I am embracing it. Why? Because it is these shoulders that are holding me up in forearm stand. This newly developed strength can hold me in poses I only dreamed about 6 months ago. Oh, and I am always hungry! Yoga is not easy! I have discovered the benefits of “green juice” and “coconut creme”, but discovered that even though they are super healthy, they really don’t satisfy me!  I will take 2 bags of Pop Chips over a kale and romaine smoothie…A-N-Y-D-A-Y. But on a deeper level, halfway through this program something magical and mystical has happened. 14 amazing ladies from all different backgrounds made the decision to gather together for 200 plus hours with the purpose of uplifting their lives, expanding their authenticity, and getting strong bodies–all through the practice of yoga. In the end we will all be teachers. Whether we decide to teach studio classes or not, we will have gained invaluable knowledge in which we can share with and teach others.

The results thus far has been something beyond words. “The Alchemy of Yoga” as best as I can explain it. What is that? Chapter 2 verse 1 of the Yoga Sutras sets forth how the Alchemy of Yoga actually works. “Tapas svadhyaya ishvara pranidhana kriya yoga.” Translated to mean that yoga helps us transform ourselves on three levels:

1. Physical Alchemy—Tapas: helps us ignite the changes we want to make in our lives. It is about the getting fired up and passionate. Literally it means heating the body through moving and breathing in the vinyasa.

2. Mental Alchemy—Svadhyaya: while we are following the discipline of tapas and engaging in physical practice to help move our stuck energy we are watching ourselves. In yoga we study the self to learn about the self. Here the mental alchemy is through self-observation. We witness what is going on in our thoughts, what are we thinking.

3. Spiritual Alchemy—ishvara pranidahana: as we are doing and watching we let go of the ego of judgment. We move beyond wanting life to be different and begin to feel the surrender that allows what is being offered to mix together. We practice ishvara pranidhana as we trust the universal intelligence that hugs us from all directions to know what it’s doing. And once we find this trust we begin to believe that beauty and goodness are within us flowing nonstop, and there is no reason to stop this flow for its natural current is to align with the current of grace that is everywhere outside of us. Beauty becomes our way of life. Happiness becomes our natural alchemy.

You see, when you get together in a teacher training group we are all like the Alchemists in our laboratories mixing ingredients. For us, as yogis, our laboratory is our mat and the ingredients are our bodies, our poses, our breath, our thoughts—and mixing it all together creates a different result every time.

You wake up to the power you have to go into the laboratory of your life experience and mix the potions you want to create your best life going forward.

Here are three reasons:

1. Transformation happens faster: Something extraordinary happens while in a yoga teacher training program that breaks the bonds of ordinary awareness and expands the consciousness of each individual to a level that would otherwise would have taken years of ordinary living to attain. I don’t know why. It just does. I equate this to being mystical…with no reason.

As Sri Swami Satchidananda says, “Yoga believes in transforming the individual before transforming the world. Whatever change we want to happen outside should happen within. If you walk in peace and express that peace in your very life, others will see you and learn something.” In a teacher training you are learning at a faster rate exponentially. You feed off of one another’s passion and it makes everyone burn brighter. You are constantly being built up to reach higher into your best potentiality.

2. Self relfection leads to self expression: Self study, known as svadhyaya, is really the heart of yoga. All these hours spent are a commitment to learning more about yourself. The entire training community provides you honest, loving support from day one with complete inclusivity. At times, I have personally felt that my weekends at training serve as my little safe haven. Teacher trainings are devoted to offering you an atmosphere in which freedom of self-expression, creativity, and passion for life are totally encouraged.

In the eight‐limbed path of yoga, in order to effectively teach using your most authentic voice you can only teach what you know about yourself. Being a dedicated student of yoga for your own self study will help you learn better ways to take care of yourself. And once you know how to self-comfort you are able to express who you are into the world in a dynamic yet unpretentious way.

3. Break old habits: By taking a break from your daily life, unplugging from the pulls and pushes of technology and engaging in healthy activity (tapas) and conversation (self-study), while in a teacher training program, you are in an excellent environment to release unwanted habits. Some of these habits include detoxing the physical body through a lot of moving and breathing. You do a lot of yoga poses! The letting go of mental bonds and ego provides an emotional transformation of surrender.

Also there is something very powerful about surrounding yourself with people who don’t know the entirety of your past. They see you as you really are and your potential for greatness. This encourages you to want to do better.

I will be sad to finish my teacher training program but I am excited about the future and the friendships I have formed. It so comforting to know that these friendships are with like minded people who will support my growth and your my lifestyle choices.

Till the next update…my final class exam! Namaste

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US Weekly no longer covers my coffee table
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FDY Trainees@ Maha Padma Yoga Temple-Sanskrit workshop
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April teaches tons of hands on assists and adjustments.
People love it in her classes!
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This is what we do in our spare time.

A KICK ASS NYC YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

I did a trial run prior to the program, making sure I knew how to navigate the subways, and find the place thanks to my city savvy hubby!
I did a trial run prior to the program, making sure I knew how to navigate the subways, and find the place thanks to my city savvy hubby!

A KICK ASS NYC YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

Hello Yogi’s,

I’m halfway though my RYT 200 hr teacher training through Fire Dragon Yoga in NYC. My knees and back are sore and my mind is overly self-reflected. My teacher rocks and is pretty hardcore. If anyone is interested in a straight up, no messing around 4 month intensive 200 hour YTT program in NYC, I highly recommend you check the FireDragon Yoga. From workshops on Qi Gong, to Hydrocolon therapy, to Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sanskrit, and massage, it is as well rounded as it gets. Couldn’t be happier with my decision. Plus it ain’t to shabby practicing at the posh Reebok Sports Club on the UES. Hey, Regis Philbin was next to me online at the deli counter there! Pretty cool! Check out my teacher at http://www.firedragonyoga.com.