1. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and he (or she) will step up to the plate every time.
2. If it is too good to be true, well, it probably is some loon with an aquarium full of heads in his house.
3. Good people are capable of doing bad things and bad people are capable of doing good things.
4. Trust your instincts.
5. Have a posse. It is messy sometimes but it’s the only way you’re gonna make it.
6. Duct tape is your friend.
7. Zombies don’t have feelings.
Okay, okay, you could probably learn these things from any zombie apocalypse story. But it is important to be reminded of it now and then. Especially the part about duct tape. That thing is so darn handy.
You know when someone says, “I’m sure it’ll be fine” and you lunge at their neck while screaming, “How the hell do you know?”
No? Just me?
I am not a full-time yoga teacher. (It’s a pretty nourishing side gig as far as side gigs go.) But I just don’t have any desire to do it day-in and day-out. I do have a day job – a good one. One I don’t mind coming into even though it occasionally drives me batty. (That’s what yoga is for!)
But, yesterday, I was told that I might lose that job. The contracting company I work for didn’t win the re-bid for the project I am on. So the new company can either replace me with someone else, offer me the job with a significant pay cut or keep everything the same (the ideal situation, of course). As a pragmatist, I am definitely updating my résumé and holding off on major expenses. I am also trying not to freak out.
“What if they cut my pay? What happens to my benefits? My 401k? What if my new supervisors are jerks?”
Uncertainty is a bitch.
But one thing is keeping me from Meltdown City…
A few months ago in one of my yoga books, I came across a Chinese parable. There are many versions of it but all have a very similar gist and it goes like this:
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
This story is often told when teaching non-attachment. For me, it very clearly conveyed that not all good things are good and not all bad things are bad. It’s best not to get attached to the present situation. I have experienced that some good things have led to bad things and some bad things have resulted in good things. Like when I was happy about being able to get on a crowded elevator in SOHO because I was in a rush and then my elevator ended up being stuck between floors for three hours in 95-degree temperatures… (I no longer run after elevators by the way).
Maybe I’ll lose this job. Maybe I’ll find another job. A better job. Or a worse job that will force me to pursue another line of career, which could lead to who knows what? Fame? Fortune? Glory? For better or for worse, the possibilities are endless!
So I don’t have a panacea to offer you when things aren’t going well. But I am sharing this story with you because it gets me through rough times – especially during times of uncertainty. I hope it helps you as well.
In the meantime I’ll be playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on repeat.
Right now I am sitting outside on my balcony. It’s a beautiful day. I’m wearing shorts and an old shirt. I have a glass of ice-cold lemonade nearby and my favorite songs are playing. A soft breeze just picked up to remind me to take a deep breath and acknowledge how perfect things are right at this very moment.
Life feels really easy.
It has been far from being a perfect day. In fact, I started the day seeing that someone had hit my car and left without a note… again. While assessing the damage, a person who has made my family and me uncomfortable rode by on his bike and said hello and lingered as if we weren’t one incident away from getting a restraining order against him. After that, I went for a run and felt like I was being chased by all the unpleasant feelings those two events had generated.
So how did I get from this morning’s ugliness to this afternoon’s calm? Well, at first I felt out of control, angry and disappointed. And I thought my day was ruined when I so desperately needed to relax, rest and work quietly. I wanted to salvage the day but didn’t know how until this thought popped into my head, “It could have been worse.” And, boy, did I have enough experiences to know how bad “worse” can be. For example, the damage could have made my car undriveable. Crazy guy could have been wielding a machete. It could have started to rain… And a million other things that could have aggravated the circumstances.
And you know what? That single thought changed the trajectory of my day. I could breathe a little more. I could enjoy this lovely, quiet day and find ease in my body despite this morning’s chaos. This moment of peace is enough to get me through the next few past, present and future unhappy events. Sure, I could use more money, more responsibilities at work, more space at home, less stress on my commute… I’m not happy all the time but more importantly I’m not UNhappy all the time either. It’s true that life is hard. Which is why one of my favorite quotations is by the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. He said,
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
We can add to our suffering by holding on to pain tightly and relentlessly. But how exactly does that serve us? Sometimes life really sucks (and it certainly doesn’t need our help to make it so) but it doesn’t always and those small (or big) good moments are what’s going to get you through the rough ones. So recognize when things are good as much as we recognize when things are the pits.
There are many ways to find ease in a hard life. And only you have the right tools to make it happen. Only you can allow yourself to find that ease. And your way will look different from someone else’s. For some it’s a long bike ride, for others it’s a good book or movie… Sometimes it is wallowing in the crappiness of it all. We have to be good to ourselves in whatever way that we can. Even if it means loosening up some of the hard and fast rules that govern our lives.
So how do YOU find or create ease in your life?
Some of the obstacles to getting started in yoga is not knowing what type of yoga is right for you. There are many different styles of yoga and sometimes the best way to find out if you like something or not is to try it for yourself.
But just to help you along, below are brief descriptions of the most popular yoga styles in the U.S.:
Ashtanga – In this style there are six established (and strenuous) pose sequences. Meaning there’s a series 1, series 2, etc. Yogis move rapidly from one pose to another, combined with deep, controlled breathing. Also referred to as power yoga.
Hatha – All yoga poses are considered hatha but more popularly when referring to a type of class it means it is slower-paced, gentle and focused on breathing and meditation.
Bikram - Created by Bikram Choudhury. This style is a series of 26 poses (each performed twice) in a nearly 105º room with 40% humidity.
Hot yoga – This style is similar to Bikram only in that the room is warmer than your average room but only from 85º to 95º. The lower temperature is more manageable while still benefitting from the warm room which helps with flexibility.
Iyengar – Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. This form of yoga focuses on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. Props are used in this class to helps students to get into the right position.
Anusara - Created by John Friend (who is awesome, by the way). This style of yoga also focuses on precise alignment like Iyengar but taps into the more spiritual (and fun) aspects of yoga. Expect a lot of “heart-opening” poses like backbends.
Jivamukti - Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life. A typical class includes a theme, some chanting and references to ancient scripture weaved into the physical practice. It is rooted heavily in yoga philosophy and traditions.
Kundalini – This practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy of the root chakra (area around your lower spine). Movements are intense and with a lot of work on core. There is also a lot of sitting. This one thoroughly kicked my butt.
Restorative – This style of yoga is heaven on earth. The poses for this class focus more towards relaxation. Props like blankets, bolsters and eye pillows help yogis to sink into their breath and let go. Stressed out? This is the yoga practice for you.
Vinyasa – My favorite style of yoga. Also commonly known as flow, like ashtanga, yogis rapidly flow from one pose to the next with attention to the breath. Most vinyasa classes are taught with music. (And I love that!)
Yin – This practice involve more passive stretches held for longer periods of time (read: not a cake walk). For those people (like me) who have a more fiery practice, this style of yoga is the perfect balance to cool down with.
Sometimes you’ll see a class labeled Yoga I/II. If the studio isn’t clearly affiliated with a style of yoga, it probably means that the teacher combines or blends several teaching styles in her classes. If you have never tried yoga, it’s best to start at Yoga I. As you improve, then you can move up to Yoga II then Yoga III.
I hope this helps get you on your yoga journey. If you have any questions, please let me know!
P.S. I teach a Yoga I/II class every Thursday at 7:00 PM in Silver Spring. I mix different styles of yoga and share a theme with my students. Questions and requests for clarification are always welcome. Come and join me next time!
Yeah, I said it.
From the moment I step off my porch until the second I’m back on my porch I am hating running.
There’s no clarity. There’s no Nike-like video where a woman is running on a lonely road looking strong and confident.
Instead there’s me shuffling along angry, tired and wheezing like grandma – wondering to myself when this torture is going to end. I know that’s the case because on one occasion I ran by a punk teenage boy wearing all black who looked up at me, smiled and gave me an encouraging thumbs up. He actually felt bad for me! That’s how sad-looking I am when I go running. People always ask, “But you must feel good after, right?” Nope. There IS relief that it’s done but there’s NO celebration. There’s no enthusiasm for more. There’s no “I feel great!” – only “Man, that sucked.” It’s just not getting easier.
I’m convinced that people who claim they love to run are actually doing it on a bicycle. They’re confused, that’s all.
I only run once or twice a week and about 3.5 miles. And every single time it takes all of my mental capacity to tie up my shoe laces and head out the door. All the block rocking beats in the world in my MP3 player couldn’t help. It’s always the last thing I want to do.
Naturally, on a running day it’s the first thing that I do.
I don’t love working out. Some days I don’t even love doing yoga. I would rather read a book, watch TV or nap. Exercise or anything healthy would not be in the top 10 choices I would make if I were given a menu to choose from.
So to get around this lack of motivation to move, I simply removed the choice.
It’s not whether I would run or not – it’s what time will I go running. In prosaic terms, it become a way of life. It removes the option of not moving. There’s no talking myself into it (or out of it). It’s just something that’s going to be done. I’m healthier when I move. Being sedentary is not an option and that left me with exercising. So despite my hatred of running, I treat it like the many necessary evil tasks of my every day life – just get it done and move on. Don’t linger over it. Don’t wait. Don’t stall. Get out there and get it over with. (This is perhaps why the “Just Do It” Nike campaign resonated with so many people).
This did not happen overnight. I don’t have the discipline of an Olympian. I first had to learn that I could do it and even reap the benefits. But like my yoga practice it evolved over time and I worked on it over and over again. I failed over and over again. But we can train our mind to help us make the right decisions for our body. There is no difference between people who exercise and people who don’t. It’s just that some people push through the inertia of a body at rest staying at rest.
This is not to say that I don’t do a happy dance for the torrential downpour on my running day. I do a little bit but I also remind myself: if not today, then tomorrow.
There is an effective mental trick in all of us that can get us off the couch and moving. You just have to figure it out. Maybe it’s not for running. Maybe it’s for doing another unpleasant task like polishing the furniture. If you have something, will you please share it? Maybe you can inspire someone else!
Photo via Flicker (Creative Commons) by Anoxlou.
“Do overweight ladies do yoga? It seems to be for the thin and flexible.”
In one form or another, the sentiment above is one of the most common ones expressed to me ever since I started doing yoga. It is infuriating!
YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY. Repeat after me: YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY.
It doesn’t matter whether you can touch your toes or even see them. Everyone can practice yoga. And it makes me angry to think that maybe someone or something has made a person feel like she can’t come to yoga because she’s too fat.
As an overweight person will there be poses you can’t do or have more difficulty doing? Yes, of course! There are poses I can’t do simply because my arms are too short. That doesn’t mean I can’t do yoga – only that modifications have to be made. Because we are all so anatomically varied, yoga is different for every person. If you think you might be more comfortable, there are plus-sized yoga classes like Annie Carlin‘s “Larger Bodies Miniseries“ at Golden Heart Yoga. Find and take the class where you will feel the most secure and at ease.
Every teacher is trained and prepared to teach yoga to students of all shapes, sizes and different levels of ability. So that is never an issue when you walk into a yoga class. But I can’t pretend that every yoga class is a judgment-free haven. Rest assured, those classes do exist and it’s important to keep looking until you find one. Why? Because yoga is good for you and if you enjoy it, nothing should stop you from doing it.
Yoga’s popularity in the U.S. exploded these past few years and I’m glad people are practicing but I worry that others who could benefit from it feel too intimidated to come or tried it and felt unwelcome. When I look out at my classes, the majority of my students are thin, white women. More often than not, I’m the only minority in the room. That reality is probably a combination of where I teach and where yoga is at this time (or at least people’s perception of it). Organizations like Decolonizing Yoga are working to dispel the notion that yoga is only for certain types of people.
So you mustn’t feel discouraged. There is a yoga home for every person. When you find it, I promise you it will have been worth the search. Now go out there and do some yoga!