5 Ways To Be A Better Yoga Teacher

Yoga training concept

I’m a sucker for  Advice-driven posts like this. I cannot resist, “3 Ways to Achieve Enlightenment in Your Lifetime,” or “10 ways to Stop Cravings.”. I bite every time. So here’s my own “list post”  giving myself the Yoga Teaching advice I need.

Number 1. Don’t close your eyes when you teach.

This is really hard for me. I see so much clearer when I my eyes are closed.  But when I am a student and I am looking at the teacher and the teacher has her eyes closed I feel disconnected from her. I think (and rightly so) that she is in her own world, and what she’s saying has nothing to do with me. Selfishly, I want the teacher to be there for me. I want the teacher to be present.

When I am teaching and tell the students to close their eyes, that doesn’t give me permission to close MY eyes. I need to remember that. Teachers close their eyes because students are really distracting. Their behavior  can really throw you off.

But I must train myself to keep my eyes open at all times. And look at them. As individuals. Not as a “class.”

This is really hard.. I am still, after all these years, terrible at it. I need to force myself to do it, especially when I am centering them. I think the reason I close my eyes is that I am trying to center myself at the same time I am centering them. And that’s a mistake.  I need to remember to keep my eyes opened. All the time. Never close your eyes if you are a yoga teacher.

Number 2. Don’t be afraid to touch your students.

I am really bad at this, too. Every yoga teacher is taught how to assist. Some are way better at it than others. The ones who are good usually have had teachers who have assisted them really well.

I am afraid to touch my students because I am afraid that the touch will be wrong. The way to get over this is to just touch lightly at first. Just give a fingertip touch. The very lightest of encouragement or tweak.

This is hard to get over if you don’t know how. And sometimes students will take the touch as a correction rather than a cue. So you think maybe not to touch is just better. That is a mistake.  People are starved for touch. Even the lightest touch is a moment of being seen. That’s why everyone in a class should be touched at least once.

Number 3. Don’t talk too much.

Oh boy. This is what I really need to learn. It is okay to have a lot of silence in a yoga class. You don’t have to fill up all the space with chatter. I have to remember this because I am a very chatty teacher.

A few  well-chosen cues, widely spaced, can go a long way. I need to think of words as spices. You don’t want to over salt the dish, you want to go easy on the cayenne, the cumin, the curry.

Let there be space for emptiness and breathing and contemplation. Don’t talk too much. Err on the side of silence.

Number 4. Don’t forget to smile.

You don’t have to crack jokes or smile the whole time like a ninny, but learn to put a smile in your voice. If your students are deep in their practice, breathing and listening for the next direction, if your voice has a smile in it, it is really wonderful.

In oder to put a smile in your voice you have to have a smile on your face. You need to practice this. You know how nice it is when you’re on the phone with someone in customer service, and they seem to have a smiley voice? When you can hear something friendly in their voice, it makes the whole interaction go much better.

That’s what you should aim for in the yoga room. Not jokes, not inauthenticity, just warm friendliness. This takes some mirror practice. Work on it.

Number 5. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know.

If you don’t live the yamas and niyamas, if you don’t struggle to live them in your own life, don’t bring them up. If, however, you do try to adhere to them in your non-yoga-class life, then by all means bring them up.  It’s like talking about weight-loss when you’ve never had a weight problem. Just don’t.

If you don’t practice handstands, don’t teach handstands. If you don’t have a daily practice, don’t preach daily practice.  Don’t preach about virtues you don’t aspire to, or struggle with, or have. If you’ve never had a chakra awakening, don’t talk about chakra awakenings. Stay honest. Stay in your lane.

The Sugar Project is Over

Boomer sleeps

I really thought it would take longer, but I am here to report that the sugar dragon has been slain. At least for now.

I started this no-sugar project on the 10th thinking it would take me at least 2 weeks to get a handle on this addiction. But no. It’s done. I don’t have any hankering for sugar any more. I don’t crave it, or miss it, or want it.

Done. I feel more in control of my self and my life. (But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that big of a sugar freak to begin with.) But I did have certain triggers: Chocolate with wine, for instance. Gelato for creamy comfort when I had a lot of hard work to do. Midel Ginger snaps when I wanted something with tea. Like that.

As soon as I broke the chain reaction and noticed I was perfectly okay with just a glass of wine, or just a cup of tea, and as soon as my brain didn’t associate sugar with reward anymore, I got free.

I’m not saying I will never eat anything with sugar in it ever again, but when I do, it will be a treat, I will have just a tiny bit, and then go off it.

I really don’t think it is going to be like an alcoholic’s one drink and totally off the wagon. I really don’t.

It is also consoling me that I am going to be doing a Purification cleanse with Jennifer next month, so if there is some teetering or backsliding, I have a program in place to address that.

G is in Myrtle Beach with her team this weekend. I don’t know how she is doing, but I suspect it is still hard for her (she really misses her mochas!) but that she is staying clean.

So here’s my advice, for what it’s worth.

You’re going to feel like shit for awhile, that’s a given. You’re going to want to bail. Don’t. There is going to be a moment when the shackles will just magically fall away and you’ll be free, and you’ll feel positively giddy.

Give yourself as long as it takes to get there, knowing that it WILL COME.

Because when at last you are free, you’ll  feel powerful and amazing. You’ll stop peaking and crashing. Your energy will return and you’ll feel Zen and  even-tempered.

Eat healthy fats instead of sugar. Butter, coconut oil, and avocados saved me. Try the Bulletproof coffee. If the butter sounds gross, start with a just teaspoon of coconut oil in your coffee. It’s very calming and soothing to the nervous system.

Take it as a given that you’re going to be tired and grouchy. Get lots of sleep. Whenever you can, indulge in slothful inclinations.

Then take a bath. Do your laundry. Clean something small. It will cheer you up.

Do some yoga. If you can hack it, make it Power Yoga. The endorphin boost will make you feel sooo much better.

I hope you liked reading about this little project, and aren’t sorry it didn’t last the full month.

I must say, once the crappy parts of this no-sugar experiment ended, I’ve felt an up-tick in my cognitive energy, and am hatching a new book project.

Stay tuned!

Thanks for following this little adventure.

How To Write Your Personal Manifesto

What is a Personal Manifesto?

A Personal Manifesto is list of what you believe and value. It’s not necessarily who you are now, or how you live your life now.

But it is your line in the sand. It’s the definitive statement of what you stand for, what you believe, and where you refuse to compromise.

It doesn’t have to be long. The shorter the better. Maybe 10 things.

Your Manifesto is the place where you say: Here is a written list of the qualities I value in people and the world. This is the kind of person I wish to become. I may not be there yet, but this is what I’m aiming for. 

How to Write Your Personal Manifesto.

Take out your notebook. The same one you’re keeping your Things I Love and Things I Hate lists and your Piles.

Give yourself an hour and scribble down some answers to the following questions:

1. Who do I admire?

2. What do I admire in the people I admire?

3. What do I admire in the marketplace as a consumer of goods and services?

4. What 1 or 2 qualities do I have that I wish my children, friends, or colleagues had?

5. How do I feel when I feel seen?

6. What makes me feel safe, secure and appreciated?

7. How do I want to show up in the world; how do I want to be seen?

8. How do I want to express?

9. How do I want to be known?

10. What do I want to be known for?

11. What would be the best thing someone could say about me in a eulogy?

List out all the qualities you admire in other people. Think back to a time when you felt seen and appreciated and remember what that felt like. Write it all down.

What kind of reputation do you want to have? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

After you finish these questions, you will know a lot about who you are and what you stand for for.

Now look at your answers to these questions and pick out the qualities you want to emulate.

For example, say your answer to question number 3, “What do I value in the marketplace?” was, “I value reliability and courtesy.”

You might then make these qualities part of your Manifesto if you really feel strongly about them.

Be reliable

Be courteous

What if you answered Number 10 with, “I want to be known as someone who is open-minded and interested in lots of things.”

You could then add,

Be open-minded

Be interested

to your Manifesto.

These statements don’t have to be long. In fact, the shorter the better. And there don’t have to be tons of them. Maybe only 10 things.

Because your Manifesto is describing the way you want to be, not necessarily who you are yet, try to put the word “Be”  at the beginning of each item. Pretend you’re pep-talking yourself.

“Kath, be patient,” or, “I want to be patient.”

Make those statements into Manifesto statements by just taking the words, “I want to” out.

Be patient.

Here is my Manifesto.

Be human

Be calm

Be mindful

Make conscious choices

Seek flow

Extend your abilities

Engage with the world

Be kind

Express gratitude

Risk vulnerability

Restore yourself

You’ll notice that mine don’t all start with  “Be,” but they all start with a verb, or an action word like: make, seek, extend, engage, express, risk.

You’ll also note that each one is really SHORT. No full sentences. No details. This is really important because the shorter you make these statements, the easier they’ll be to remember.

You want each thing on your list to remind you to do something.

You want each thing to trigger an action.

It’s called a Manifesto because it’s what you want to manifest; it’s how you want to show up in the world.

Your Personal Manifesto is series of commands to yourself. It’s you telling yourself, reminding yourself, how you want to be.

Then Hang It Up

It’s really important to post this Manifesto somewhere in your house.

Why?

Because if you forget who you are, you can instantly refresh your memory. We all forget who we are constantly. We all make mistakes constantly because we are constantly forgetting what we believe and what we stand for. That’s why it’s so important to have this stuff written down and posted somewhere.

Also, if it’s posted in your house and you live with others, they’ll be able to read it too, and know who you are, what you stand for, and who you are striving to be.

Then, when you get into an argument, you can just say, “Refer to number 3 on my Manifesto” and save yourself a lot of explaining.

They might challenge you on it, or even call you on your shit, but that’s good.  Whenever you have to defend it, it becomes stronger.

Also: It’s very good to have people around who point out when they see you falling out of integrity. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but it keeps you honest in a good way. And if you  have children, it’s especially good for them to know what you stand for. Clarity breeds understanding and peace in the home.

If you are comfortable with it, it would also be good to hang a copy of your Manifesto where you work. Put a framed copy on your desk. It will act as a subtle reminder to you of who you are, especially if you tend to fall out of integrity at work.

My Manifesto is hanging in my dining room at home and at my yoga studio. (I also have printed it in black marker on my yoga mat!)

The day I wrote it, I was on a mini-retreat in Ithaca, NY and had taken this picture with my iPhone of my tea cup on the windowsill of the place I was staying.

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Then I used the Over app to superimpose my Manifesto onto that photo.

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When I showed the resulting picture to G, she really liked it and took it to Walmart and had it mounted. This is how It looks hanging in our dining room:

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I encourage you to do something like this. Write your Manifesto and hang it on the wall proudly.

Foisting Books on People

This morning the woman who stayed in our house and took care of Boomer while we were in Portland stopped by to return a book she borrowed. While she was here, I foisted another one on her. Not this Seth Godin, but a newer book by him. If she likes it, I’m going to foist Linchpin on her. Here is a reblog from 5 years ago. I hope you enjoy.

Inspiration Location

I really don’t want to be a foister, but I am.  I am reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin at the moment and all I want to do is buy 20 copies and give them to people, press it into their hands with that annoying, desperate pleading in my eyes and say, “Pleeeeze!  You simply MUST read this!!”

And I’m not even finished it yet; I’m only on page 120.  This is such an important book (I believe), it’s about becoming indispensable.  Like all his books, it’s brilliant, super easy to read, and so very RIGHT!

Here are a few of my underlinings:

“The job is not your work; what you do with your heart and soul is the work.” (p.97)

“When you have a boss, your job is to please the boss, not to change her. It’s okay to have someone you work for, someone who watches over…

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Sitting on the Tarmac in Chicago

Departure day is always a little sad for me but even more so today because it was the last time at that house. In August they move to Beaverton and a bigger place with a green space in their backyard and a network of bike trails that extend for miles. 

It’s a good move for them, but there are lots of memories in that place.

We had a beautiful and delicious breakfast this morning at a place called La Provence. Baked eggs, Brulleed Oatmeal, croissants, omelettes to die for.

Afterwards, back to the house for a little more Obie time.

I am having trouble with my internet connection tonight so my pictures aren’t coming through, but if they would come through there would be a cute pic of Obie sitting on my lap, right here,        and then after that a pic of me asleep with my noise cancellers and neck pillow.

We had a shrieking baby behind us and loud little kids in front of us from Portland to Chicago. Our flight to Elmira has been delayed. I guess there are worse places to be delayed than ORD. 

Like Philly. 

Tomorrow, back to normal: the book, the studio, and a MUCH cleaner diet. The food was good. It was just a little TOO good. 

Pacific City to Portland

We left our great VRBO in Pacific City this morning, but last night we watched the sun set into the ocean (which is unusual for us East Coasters who only see the sun rise over the ocean.)

It was cold out there, at least for me who has the blood of a snake. But well worth it, especially going back home to Cooper Mountain Pinot and a fire in the firepit, and s’mores.

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And this morning we strolled Obie to the coffee shop and stopped to say goodbye to the sand on the way home.

 

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Back in Portland we went to the Food Trucks for lunch. G and I had Nasi Goreng which we haven’t had since Bali  and it was delicious and the people watching was even better. I love Portland.image

 

 

 

 

 

After a shower and a napitation, it was back to Em’s for coctails, Corn Hole and cuddling with this one:

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The plan for tomorow is to go the the Japanese Gardens, and then to Salt and Straw for ice cream. It is hot here in Portland, and this weekend is supposed to set records here.

Okay. Another great day here in Portand. More tomorrow.

 

 

 

I paid $3.99 so you could read this

Getting up at 3:30 wasn’t so bad. And even though it was foggy as hell driving to the airport, got there without hitting a deer.

(I am the only person I know who has never hit a deer. The streak continues.)

My luggage weighed 32.9 lbs. I won “the lightest luggage” contest among my travel mates, Ira and G.

We got TSA-PRE which meant we didn’t have to take off our shoes, but G got pulled over for trying to bring an Orgain (a meal replacement drink we are fond of) through security. (Travel much, G?)

I conked out on the plane from ELM to ORD. Didn’t even hear Beverage Service come through.

Originally had a tight connection in Chicago (ORD), but t-storms there delayed all planes departing and arriving so no worries about making the plane. So few worries in fact, that G and I got a quickie Swedish Massage for neck and shoulders that unravelled the Gordian Knot of Hell planted there my our beloved trainer, Vince, yesterday during killer sets at the squat rack.

(Never in my life would I have predicted that the words “Squat Rack” would ever grace my vocabulary.)

G and I purchased the mandatory Starbucks drinks and G paid for the mocha of a woman newly state-side from 6 months in India who was all saucer-eyed over just about everything. “I just drank from A WATER FOUNTAIN!”

We remembered what that felt like. (India is hard.)

I bought a neck pillow (we have 6 of them,, at least, at home) and the Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. Bought a Kale-Orange drink at Jamba, and walked the length of the B-Gates to try to keep up with G in the race to get the most steps on our Garmins.

Just spent $3.99 for an hour of WiFi on this cheap-o flight. (C’mon United.)

Ira is asleep pretending to read some book about Darwinian Evolution (is there any other?) and G found US Open coverage on her Ipad.

We have about an hour left on this flight, then rental car and off we go!

Later.