Approach both your life and your postures with an eye to the process, and let go of the results. Stand easy in all the postures of your life, firm but relaxed. (Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat)
This past weekend we reached weekend four of Yoga Teacher Training. The focus of the weekend was on Asana, or poses, and breaking them down to learn how to cue students into and out of a pose. The emphasis for the weekend was on how to be clear, concise and consistent when providing instruction. We also discussed how to be effective – to cue from the ground or foundation up. What touches the earth? What is the foundation of the pose? The weekend included breaking down 40+ poses.
The weekend was far more than just breaking down poses, cue by cue, however. Over the time that I have written this blog I have written about community several times. This weekend really clarified the community that we have formed as a group of yoga teachers in training. There was more laughter than I think we have experienced so far. This is a very special group of women, each with her own story and reason for being in training, each with her own gift for what she will offer the yoga community and the larger community of her own life. I feel honored to be part of this journey with them.
We had an opportunity to teach one another this weekend. It was fun and challenging. We support one another as we learn how to lead one another and our future students. Learning to teach is a process and each one of us needs to trust where we are on the road. The quote that begins this post was in my personal readings this weekend. It captures what we discussed and learned. We must let go of what we anticipate will happen because there is always the unexpected and often the unexpected is far better than what we can imagine. I read standing “firm but relaxed” as knowing what I need to do, studying and understanding the postures as well as the applications, and seeing where it leads.
On Sunday morning Shannon Andrews Skipper came as the guest teacher. It was a wonderful and creative morning of celebration. Shannon incorporates dance, play and music in her classes. She gave us the opportunity to explore an energetic and joyful practice through chanting, dancing and flowing. The practice encouraged me to pull out my bag of musical instruments that I used when I was teaching and telling stories. I think I will find a way to incorporate music into my practice and teaching.
Each weekend is more amazing than the previous weekend. In the next few weeks the focus is on cultivating my home practice and reflecting on what that means for my practice and teaching. I am looking forward to seeing what comes up and how I continue in this process.
As late May and early June roll around each year I begin to reflect on how far I have come in the past five years. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time then you know the story. If not, here is the short version.
Five years ago on Memorial Day weekend I ate a Bojangles sausage biscuit. It was the end of my really horrible eating because I was so ill for the entire weekend, had to cancel a trip to Duke to attend the Summer Institute on Reconciliation and generally felt like I could not sink much lower. I have never been entirely sure why I was so sick but I think it was my body telling me “enough, it’s time to change.” My health was horrid even though I had been making attempts to workout and improve things for about a year at that point. I was not truly committed to change. Then I met this guy the next week.
I had no idea how much my life would change. I didn’t think he would put up with me for long. But I was totally wrong. Sam continues to train me, challenge me, put up with me when I change my mind about races. He has supported me through my injuries and surgery for the Achilles tendon tear. He supports me when I finish a race and when I don’t make it to the finish line. Sam taught me to swim at 50 years old and has helped me get over my fears about the water. He even feeds my crazy cat when I am out of town. I have been blessed to watch him marry his princess, become a wonderful father, and to advance in his career. It’s been an amazing five years. The journey isn’t over yet.
I spent this past weekend at yoga school, the new name for teacher training thanks to one of my yoga sister’s little girls. This month the focus was on anatomy. We got to know Steven this weekend, Julie Maharrey’s sidekick and skeleton. We listened to information about bones, joints and muscles but we also worked through poses and identified how joints worked and which muscles were being used. It was a worthwhile weekend. While we won’t point out ligaments or joints when we are teaching, it is important to have some understanding about how the body works and functions.
We also revisited breathing practice this month. This month we discussed breath in relation to anatomy and some of the cues we give to make space in the body. The practice we did helped the cues and breath make more sense.
Practice on Friday and Saturday was much easier for me than it has been. I was able to move through and do most of the poses without much problem. I still have work to do on core strength vinyassa but I felt much better than I had the first two months. What I realized is that I am becoming stronger in different ways. I am not sure I can explain entirely but there is a difference in the strength it takes to repeatedly do sun salutations or downward dog than the strength it takes to lift weights.
On Sunday morning we practiced with guest teacher Pilar Taylor. Pilar’s class was difficult but I was able to do more than I anticipated. As I sat and watched a few times I witnessed the beauty of a room full of yogis moving as one. Pilar’s sequencing is lovely. She is truly a gifted teacher.
Melissa often tells us we are stronger than we think. Pilar reminded us to find something new in a pose that felt familar. She also reminded us that we get into patterns and think that is what we can do but really we can do more. All of this went through my mind as I practiced over the weekend and has as I have been home on my mat. My body is capable of more than I think it is. I have already noticed subtle shifts and I know as I continue to practice that I will observe more. It’s an amazing journey.
Late last year I decided to continue my education in order to keep my CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist) certification. I had debated since I am currently not working in the field but my dream is not dead yet. In order to maintain the certification I need to earn 75 credits over 5 years.
I began the year by enrolling in the Plant Based Nutrition Certificate program from eCornell. The program is offered through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. The three course program focused on plant based eating and the health issues that arise from the standard American diet that most people eat and are used to. This program further changed the way I eat and think about food and nutrition. Interactions with fellow classmates from around the world as well as with the instructors in the online discussion groups was lively and invigorating. It was a great way to begin the year and my road to more nutrition focused education.
I continued my education with several courses offered by Amanda Archibald of Field to Plate. Amanda is an R.D. and teaches functional nutrition in her programs. I attended two webinars before enrolling in the Hearth to Health program for nutrition and health practitioners. I simultaneously enrolled in the Culinary Nutrition program. The courses complimented one another and provided an excellent set of tools. All of the material in Amanda’s is supported by scientific research and readings. She provides concrete information for how to work with clients and how to work with different food groups and nutritional needs. The mapping system she teaches is one that will be easy to teach and apply. The courses also provide recipes that align with each lesson and the different focuses. She teaches how to create recipes based on ingredients at hand. I am hoping to attend the hands-on part of the training in the coming year. In the meantime I am licensed to offer Hearth to Health training and events.
All of the courses that I have completed in my continuing education support what Hippocrates stated so long ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Food can cure what modern medicine often cannot or does not. Proper nutrition is a key component in living a healthy life.
Earlier this week I was caught without lunch, which is unusual for me. I had to find something I felt I wanted to eat and that was healthy. I went to one of my go-to places where I knew I could get a decent salad, minus a few ingredients that they usually put on the salad and asked to be left off. This salad cost me $13.84.
I enjoyed it as I ate it but I had the thought that I could probably buy a week’s worth of vegentables for about the same amount. It turned out that I was very close.
Today I ventured to Homegrown Alabama to buy greens. I bought all of this
for $13.00. I will eat for several days from this – strawberries, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, kale, and leaf lettuce. And all of this food is home grown by local farmers.
I also had an amazing cup of lavender honeysuckle tea from Teatown Alabama. I told him how glad I was to see him back because he was out of town last week. (Thanks to Jennifer Pate for this photo.)
So here are a few reasons why I say farmers markets rock:
- The food is local and home grown.
- I get to talk to the people who grew it. The farmers I am buying from at Homegrown Alabama and at the River Market on Saturday are starting to recognize me. I talked to the man I bought the mustard greens from today and told him about my first experience eating them. (This was something I loved in Grand Rapids. I watched children grow up over the years that I went to the market there and got to know families who were there every week.)
- Fresh food tastes better. These greens and those I have been buying the past few weeks have vibrant tastes and smells (good, by the way) that I don’t experience in most restaurants or from produce bought at the grocery store.
- It supports the local economy.
- It’s fun to get outside.
- I try new foods that I might walk by because I can talk to the people who grow them and who can give me ideas for how I can cook them.
Here is a challenge: if you don’t go to the farmers market then find one near you and go try some fresh vegetables or fruit. If you already do, try something new. I’d love to hear about what you do!
I participated in Hilary Phelps’ 30 for 30 fitness challenge in April. I made 27 for 30, which I am just fine with. I kept track of what I did on a separate page that you can find at the top of the blog.
What did I learn? I make a choice every day. Do I get up or do I sleep an extra hour? If I sleep an extra hour do I find time later in the day to workout? For the most part I have gotten into the early morning routine and this challenge helped me get back on track. I was having a hard time getting up for a while. I also took different style yoga classes and went to classes with different and new teachers. I am really enjoying my renewed yoga practice quite a bit and it is interesting to practice new styles even if I don’t think they will be my long term practice.
My off days. I needed a day off mid way through the month. I also took two days after my week of travel – one to catch up and one because I have a minor injury that I am trying to let heal. I don’t beat myself up for rest days. I know my body better than I used to and I know when I absolutely need some down time more than I need a 20 mile bike ride.
The most fun I had all month was at the Yin Yoga Intensive. It was a wonderful two days and I am looking forward to the next workshop that I am going to at the end of May. I am really hoping to teaching Yin Yoga soon.
I am glad I took the challenge. It re-energized me and helped me get back on track with my daily routine. I also paid more attention to what I was eating and started prepping better again. What I love most is the choices that I make to be healthy. That is ongoing and won’t end with the end of the challenge.