Archive for ‘Doh!

May 11, 2012

Very, Very Interesting

Blogging is bizarre.

When people say things like, “Oh, you’re so brave to put yourself out there,” which they often do, it is so decidedly not my experience. Finding a rare moment to myself to sit and type into the WordPress box doesn’t feel the least bit brave. It is, in fact, an over-scheduled introvert’s wet dream. I know that what I write will be out there once I hit “Publish,” but the act of writing–at least while I’m doing it–is mine. It’s just for me.

I am in no way abdicating responsibility for what I write. When you put stuff on the internet, like I do, you have to be prepared to take responsibility for it. I have to be prepared for fallout, and I get some. 99% of the comments made on my site are pretty loving. They’re mostly left by people who know me personally, or who feel like they do cuz they’ve followed my blog for a while.

Sometimes people don’t agree with me. Duh. I’m okay with that. Fair’s fair. If I put it out there, I have to expect people to have their own opinion:  to disagree, to concur, to be under-impressed, over-impressed, pissed, bored, you name it.

Dissenting comments, I publish. Every now and then–pretty rarely, actually–someone gets nasty. I consider myself lucky that it’s the anomaly, not the norm. Usually, the nasty stuff is left by someone writing under an obvious pseudonym. The first time it happened, the venom knocked the breath right out of me. I was all boo-hoo-hoo hurt, astonished, and indignant. I mean, why would someone who doesn’t even know me–sniffle–want to be so mean?!?!

After 24 hours of feeling victimized and misunderstood I decided that, since sensitive people have no business writing on the intarnets, I had better hurry up and develop a tougher skin. Now, mostly, I try to let stuff like that roll off my back, usually pretty successfully.

Anyway, a few zingers here and there are probably good for me. They keep me honest, and from believing my own hype.

(Oh, for the record:  I feel zero obligation to post the nasty stuff on a site for which I personally foot the bill. No apologies there. Go ‘head and get your own site, though, and good luck to you.)

On Wednesday, I published a post with my thoughts on the the value that I place on advanced asana (bendy, stretchy stuff done on a yoga mat). Yesterday, it was featured on Yogadork. I like Yogadork. I have felt very fairly treated by the site.

Reading the comments is interesting to the point of surreal for me.

It’s fascinating–to me–to see commenters interpret my post. Some claim that my post is my way of distancing myself from my former professional affiliation. Okay. I have already done that in the most overt way I could think of, but okay.

Some people took exception to the gallery of asana photographs on my website. I get why they might. I want to reiterate that I don’t have a problem with advanced asana. I find the pursuit of advanced asana interesting to the degree that I do.

One commenter felt that the photo on my website of me in Hanumanasana made my post hypocritical. I get why someone might feel that way. I don’t agree but I get it. To the point, I am certainly bendier than the average human. For my body, Hanumanasana is not an advanced asana. I could do it long before I began an earnest asana practice. That doesn’t make me virtuous or accomplished. It just makes me long muscled on the backs of my legs.

There are plenty of other poses that don’t come naturally to me, and I am only so interested in logging the hours that would be required in order to “stick” them. That was really the point I was trying to make.

I have zero problem with this:

In fact, I think it’s exquisite. I admire the discipline it requires. I dig it. It is one beautiful expression of a sadhana. It’s just not my expression.

I’m not calling for people to disavow advanced asana. I’m calling for people to invest in what’s truly valuable to them–whether that includes advanced asana, or not.

Anyway, I’m not complaining about the Yogadork comments. I’m not outraged.

I’m interested, I guess.

The internets are very, very interesting.

May 9, 2012

Being an Asana Rockstar Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Not an Asshole

This post is overdue.

I’ve been wanting to have a conversation about asana–the bendy stretchy stuff that happens on a yoga mat–for a while now.  Specifically, I want to talk about advanced asana. Advanced asana is the hard stuff. Y’know:  freestanding handstands, floaty armbalances, super deep backbends. It’s foot-behind-your-head kind of stuff. Jaw dropping demonstrations of physical prowess. The visually impressive.

Honest to god, just writing about feats of physical accomplishment, I’m yawning.

The truth is that don’t care all that much about physical virtuosity these days. To be really honest, I care less and less.

For over a decade I chose to be part of a community that, in my opinion, put far too great a value on the pure  physical prowess. Want to get close to the man behind the curtain? Better make sure you can stick your handstand on demand!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti physical prowess. I’m just pro reserving the right to decide for myself how much value to place upon it, and reserving the right for you to do the same. I’m a lot more interested in doing my best to live with integrity than I am in standing on my hands.

I’m not even suggesting that living in integrity and standing on one’s hands are mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve actually invested a fair amount of time in learning to stand on my hands–something quite unnatural, and difficult, for me. I still give handstand a whirl most days that I practice. But I don’t spend hours and hours on it because, well, I just don’t care all that much.

It’s not that I don’t care at all. It’s just that I care to the degree that I do–neither more nor less.

Do I think a disciplined practice of physical rigor can offer insight and make spiritually, emotionally stronger, less rigid, kinder, more aware people? Yes. Do I think it automatically does those things? Not on your life.

Fact:  some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met have had some of the most physically impressive practices I’ve ever seen.

(No offense intended to the physically proficient. Some of the loveliest people I know have advanced physical practices, too.)

I want to be really clear that I don’t object in the least to anyone caring about physical prowess more than I care. I am not suggesting that it is somehow superior–or more spiritual–not to care about physical mastery. What I object to is mistaking physical prowess for doing the work of determining what value it has for one’s self. I object to mistaking physical prowess for being a yogi–or even just a decent human being.

My burning interest in yoga lies in being a Nancy Drew of Consciousness. I yearn to sleuth out every crazy, beautiful, fucked-up part of myself–and of this crazy, beautiful, fucked-up world–and figure out what it’s good for. I came to yoga because I wanted tools. Now I have them, and I am passionate about sharing them. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I practice asana because I need to move my body, and its particular way of moving the body with the breath works magic for me. It moves my blood. It shifts, for a while, my focus from mental chatter to embodiment. It reminds me of my creaturely nature. It emphasizes that I am a physical being every bit as much as an intellectual being. The physical invites additional inner experience. It pushes back against my tendency toward ennui. 

It just makes me feel better.

That’s more than enough for me. That’s plenty.

Part of a good working definition of yoga, as I see it, is knowing the value of things. What do I want, and how much do I want it? What am I willing to invest in it? An investment of resources–of time, effort, breath, money–in something that’s valuable to me–a practice, a relationship, a passion–is a good investment. An investment of more resource than something is actually worth to me is a poor investment. Failing to invest in what matters to me would be another poor investment.

There’s a Sanskrit expression, “yatha tatha,” that means, “as much, so much”.  Know the value of things, including a physical practice, and invest that much. Not more. Not less.

I don’t care enough about rocking my asana to make a greater–or lesser–investment of time or effort. I won’t be logging in the hours on my mat to take it the to the next level. Instead, I will be busily becoming the best consciousness super-sleuth that I can be.

I’m not an asana rock-star, and I’m not planning to be.

There. I said it.

How much is advanced asana worth to you? How much are you willing to invest? What are you unwilling to invest? Speak up or speak out. Leave a comment below.


April 9, 2012

It’s Not Out There!

1. How many hours per week should a yoga teacher practice?

A) 14
B) 7
C) It depends
D) This is a trick question, right?
E) Both C and D

2. Mastery of which key pose is the level of initiation for successfully teaching yoga on the local level?

A) Tadasana
B) Savasana
C) Full Wheel
D) Crow Pose
E) This is a trick question, right?

3. Mastery of which key pose is the level of initiation to successfully teach yoga at the national level?

A) Headstand
B) Handstand
C) One Handed Handstand
D) Foot Behind Head
E) This is a trick question, right?

4. What is the highest acceptable percentage of body fat yoga teachers may have?

A) 2-5%
B) 10-13%
C) 14-20%
D) 32+%
E) This is a trick question, right?

5. Which of the below names is the most appropriate spiritual name for a yoga teacher?

A) Karuna
B) Karuna-ananda
C) Moonbeam Lollipop
D) Billy
E) This is a trick question, right?

6. Which is the acceptable diet for a yoga teacher?

A) Vegetarian
B) Vegan
C) Raw
D) Gluten Free
E) This is a trick question, right?

7. What is the minimum number of Chaturanga Dandasanas that is acceptable to teach in a 90 minute class?

A) 0
B) 10
C) 20
D) 49,000
E) This is a trick question, right?

8. Which is the single most effective method of hatha yoga?

A) Anusara
B) Bikram
C) Vinyasa
D) Ashtanga
E) This is a trick question, right?

9. What is the largest size in lululemon Wunder Unders that is acceptable for a yoga teacher to wear?

A) Negative Zero
B) 0
C) 2
D) 4
E) This is a trick question, right?

10. Which is an acceptable morning beverage for a yoga teacher?

A) Decaf latte with soy milk
B) Kale smoothie
C) Hot water with lemon
D) Vodka
E) This is a trick question, right?

Was that quiz ridiculous enough to make my point? My point being that most people live life a whole lot like Mulder from The X-Files, believing that “the truth is out there“.

But it’s not.

(At least, it’s mostly not. Certainly, I acknowledge that there are truths that are true enough to be true without human consent, experience, or subjective interpretation. My teacher often uses the sunrise to make this point. With me, or without me, the sun will come up tomorrow morning. That will be true with or without my consent, whether or not I am present to witness that particular sunrise, and regardless of my feelings about it.)

Right now, I’m interested in more subjective kinds of “truths”. I’m talking about the truths that we create, or buy into, truths that under closer examination aren’t true at all. I’m talking about beliefs.

Take those questions up there, for example, about requirements for success in the field of teaching yoga. Sure, they are deliberately tongue-in-cheek, and look ridiculous on paper–but I’ll bet I’m not the only one who has believed some form of at least one of them!

It’s all too common–and so very human–to hold up our beliefs as gospel, and then to fail to measure up against them. Maybe we unconsciously create our own metaphorical yardsticks of belief. Maybe we invest in someone else’s. Either way, unquestioning acceptance of beliefs means forfeiting power.

Right now, my passion as a life coach, lies in helping people question their limiting beliefs. My passion as a yoga teacher who mentors other yoga teachers is twofold:  it lies in  sharing what excites me, and facilitating teachers in questioning unconscious beliefs–their own and the ones they’ve inherited–about what it means to be a “good teacher”.

Want to explore your own ideas about what it means to be really great yoga teacher? Want to uncover and challenge your limiting beliefs around teaching yoga? Want to develop the more on-purpose and creative beliefs that reflect you? Check out my Level 2 Teacher Training this month. For the first time, it’s open to yoga teachers of ALL traditions! Freedom has never felt so good.

What kind of limiting beliefs have held you back in your teaching? What kind of experiences have you had bumping up against the limiting beliefs of others? What did you once believe to be true that you no longer believe?  Leave a comment below and talk to me!