My first Ashtanga workshop!

Angela
Me and Angela Jamison. Angela, what a beautiful soul. I’m so grateful that she represented my first Ashtanga workshop. 

I finished my 200-hour RYT training in June. As the training wrapped up, I knew my next move was to devote more of myself to Ashtanga. To me, this involves four aspects:

* Cultivating a home practice, seeing as the nearest shala is a 90-minute drive away.

* Self-study of Ashtanga and yogic principles through reading of classic and modern texts.

* Continued self-evaluation and self-improvement. In the words of Angela Jamison (see below), what’s my stuff?

* Learning through face-to-face transmission through workshops and teachers.

I’ve been working on the first one and second one since June. I’ve been working on the third one for almost two years, but seriously and consistently for about a year. And the last one is very new — I’m coming off a weekend workshop with Angela Jamison, hosted by Ellie of Ashtanga Yoga Minneapolis.

I took pages of notes, practiced alongside 15 other ashtangis, and in general had a transformative and uplifting experience over the 10 hours. Plenty of blog posts will come from this experience! But for now, let me list some quick impressions:

* Angela Jamison is a beautiful soul. She is warm and empathic and encouraging.

* I just finished teaching a five-week summer session class at MSU-Mankato. That was an intense experience like none other, giving instruction day after day. How great it felt to sit quietly and absorb instruction, to be on the other side of the desk, so to speak!

* Ellie at AYM has a great shala space. The building is a former convent, and I could feel the sacred power of sanctuary lingering in the room. From where I sat, I could see the church across the street, which offered a symbol for quiet contemplation.

Church

Chapel

* I soaked up the “tribe” aspect of Ashtanga. Back when I was practicing at Sun Moon, back when I thought it was only a physical practice, I still felt the power of the tribe and it was that I missed the most when Mona stopped offering Ashtanga. So to be back in a group of people committed to this practice felt like I was at “home.”

* I’ve been on this path for far longer than I had imagined. Angela said something about figuring out your stuff before you could fully embrace the practice. I have been drawn to self-study for the past year, for reasons that weren’t quite clear to me (or for reasons that seemed clear at the time, but now I see those weren’t the real reasons). The real reason was to prepare a clean heart for a commitment to the Ashtanga practice.

Have you attended yoga workshops? What has your experience been like?

My friend, the 24-Hour Bicycle Challenge champion!

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 4.23.35 PM
Becky Fjelland Brooks. Photo by Jackson Forderer, Mankato Free Pres. 

Do you want to be inspired? Read on! Otherwise, just skip this.

I’ve known Becky Fjelland (Davis) Brooks for I don’t know…13, 14 years? She’s that type of friend who you don’t even remember first meeting…you just feel like you’ve been friends from birth. I DO know that I started biking with her in 2007 and in that year, she invited me to join her writing group, which had already been meeting for about three years.

This is a woman a generation older than me (she technically could be my mom, though she would have been a very young mom, lol!). However, she could always kick my butt on the bike! Which from Day 1 earned my respect and admiration. Even though she could kick my butt, she didn’t act like it. Becky is a woman that wants ALL women to bike and be active and is the hugest supporter of women and fitness — ZERO competition! I can’t tell you how many times she’s ridden with me WAY more slowly than she could have — but she just wanted to be supportive and have social time!

On Sunday, June 17, this woman won her age group at the National 24-Hour Challenge bike race in Caledonia, Michigan! Did I mention that her age group is 60-64?! Becky rode her bike for 24 hours, only stopping briefly for bathroom breaks and snacks. She completed 349.5 miles during that time to set the age-group record.

Less than three years ago, Becky suffered a brain aneurysm as she was preparing to go out for a December ride. This 24-hour challenge was her goal as she recovered.

“My son and I were kind of joking, ‘In two years, we’ll go back to the 24-hour race.’ It was a joke — but also a carrot,” she told the Mankato Free Press in the June 15 edition.

The one and only time I could keep up with Becky was when I went out with her on her first rides after her aneurysm, in the summer of 2016. I told her, “The only time I can keep up with you is when you’re recovering from a brain explosion!” LOL!

Becky is the ultimate role model. This is precisely what I love about her:

“People write things off when they get to 50, 60 years old and think they’re not going to get back,” she said. “But we can. We can do more than we give ourselves credit for. I made training a priority. I made getting in shape a priority. And it worked.”

I’m training for a fall marathon and Becky is a major inspiration. If she can get on her bike for 24 hours at the age of 61, surely I can run for 5 hours at the age of 43. If she trained hard during a harsh Minnesota winter, I can get out there for training runs during a Minnesota summer.

No excuses. We all have the power to change our lives, to change our level of fitness.

Let Becky lead the way!

Becky is also a super impressive middle-grade/young-adult/essay writer. Read more of her writing here.

 

That 10 percent…

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 6.39.50 AM

If you came across $100, but somehow lost 10 of those dollars, would you incessantly focus on the $10 that was lost, or the $90 that you still had?

I have a theory of 10 percent that I’ve used for many years to refer to my classrooms. No matter how big the class, about 10 percent of the students are problematic. Maybe they don’t show up, maybe they give me a hard time, maybe they are disruptive.

I used to find myself thinking constantly about these students. They frustrated me and caused me to question my abilities as a teacher. Finally, one day I realized that 90 percent of my students are great — why was I not focusing on them? Why not focus on what was going well?

I still think about that 10 percent, but I am much quicker to turn my thoughts around and focus on the positive. I see how this thinking filters into other areas of my life. For example, I’ll be training for a running event, working hard to get in several runs in a week, doing some light weight work, complementing my training with yoga, drinking lots of water, eating right, etc. Then I’ll go out for a run and feel horrible! It will feel like I hadn’t even been training. Those bad runs really get me down, until I realize that it’s just an off day and I’m allowed to have an off day. I am learning to trust that the next day’s run will probably feel much better.

Or in terms of relationships — how easy it is to let your mind settle on the relationship that isn’t going well. But then taking a moment to pause and think about all the love that surrounds you.

It’s about deciding which thoughts will take up your precious mental space. The 90 percent positive, or the 10 percent negative? Are you going to focus on what’s going well in your life, or concentrate only on what’s not going well?

Taking the plunge: Yoga teacher training (Part II)

36774022093_8f52d1a993

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs Flickr via Compfight cc

On Monday, I wrote about the perceived barriers I had before going into yoga teacher training. In this post, I will address how I solved each issue.

Perceived barrier #1: The cost

Yoga teacher training is not inexpensive. I chose to see it as an investment, both in my personal growth and future professional career as a yoga teacher. In the long run, I figured I could make money by teaching yoga at a studio or fitness center, doing private one-on-one yoga teaching, and developing my own writing/yoga workshops.

But in the short term, I had to come up with extra money. Because yoga teacher training was important to me, I did what I always do when I want something “extra” — I pursued additional work. I took on an extra class and duties at my job and I also completed a freelance writing assignment.  Though that caused a little conundrum for…

Perceived barrier #2: The time commitment

The first level of yoga teacher training is 200 hours. At Sun Moon Yoga Studios, that is completed through one weekend over the course of eight months. My weekends are generally pretty packed with work, family, exercise, running errands, cleaning, etc. But I knew with some focused scheduling and more attention to organization, I could make it work. The schedule for the weekend intensives is planned out the year in advance, so I just blocked those weekends off on my calendar. I have learned to plan around them. For the first half of training, I only had to miss two hours (which I will be making up this weekend). I look forward to those weekends. They do not feel like an obligation–they are a blessing in the form of having a weekend to focus on yoga, and only yoga.

Perceived barrier #3: Self-doubt

I had a lot of questions going into yoga teacher training.What lies ahead? Will I like it? How will I face challenges that are sure to arise? And one question that plagues me often: Who am I to think that I (fill in the blank)? Who am I to think I can be a yoga teacher? I have done a lot of work in the past couple of years to grow personally and am learning to let questions like these just slide by and not affect me.

Have you completed a yoga teacher training? What obstacles did you have to overcome? If you are contemplating a training program, what perceived barriers do you face?

Taking the plunge: Yoga teacher training (Part I)

38291212264_a289ab0080

Photo Credit: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view Flickr via Compfight cc

After years of putting yoga teacher training on my “wish list,” I finally committed in September 2017.

The commitment made me a little nervous for a variety of reasons:

  • It’s not cheap. You’re not going to find an inexpensive yoga teacher training program anywhere. Where would I get the money?
  • It requires a lot of time. The first level of training is 200 hours. At Sun Moon Yoga Studios, where I’m doing the training, we meet for one weekend a month over eight months. Weekends are my time to spend with family, go on long runs when I’m training for a half-marathon or marathon, catch up on work, write, do housework, etc. In other words, weekends are already packed.
  • Am I good enough? Is this going to be a right fit for me? In a long program like this there will always be some challenges, either physical or mental. Am I prepared to face roadblocks?

Have you thought about a yoga teacher training program? Or even a week/weekend intensive workshop? If so, do the issues I outlined above sound familiar? What else is a stumbling block for you?

In Part II, I will address how I overcame those perceived barriers.

I LOVE winter in the Midwest!

IMG_9238

On Saturday morning, I woke up to a gorgeous winter scene of hoarfrost. Most of my workouts are indoors, but I like to get outside on a long run once a week. This scenery made my run totally worth it.

IMG_9227

A couple of weeks ago I was in Rockford, Illinois, and ended up running along the Rock River during a light, wet snow. The fresh coat of snow made for a beautiful landscape.

Here in southern Minnesota, we probably have a month left of winter, give or take a week. I’ll admit it will be nice to not have to put on layers of clothes plus hat, scarf, and mittens in order to go outside for a run. It will be nice to feel my fingers again, lol! But winter is so beautiful, and I will miss views like this. However, this is the land of four distinct seasons, so I won’t have to wait long for winter to come around again.

A beginner class? Sure, why not?!

I seem to find myself in Rockford, Illinois, every few weeks and I enjoy stopping by 815 Yoga! This morning I attended a class labeled “beginner flow.” Don’t let labels turn you off! I’m not a beginner — I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 17 years. But I chose this class today for a couple of reasons. For one, it was at 8:30 a.m. and that worked well with my schedule. The other option was a 10:15 a.m. hot yoga. I haven’t yet tried hot yoga and I didn’t think I was ready for it today! But someday…

Since 815 is not my home studio, I don’t know the teachers and their styles. So in that sense, something new is brought to my practice. And also, I generally practice and teach a vinyasa flow or Ashtanga style. So being able to settle into poses and really think about them from a beginner’s perspective offered a welcome break and shook things up, so to speak.

I quickly settled into the practice. I enjoyed the slower pace and the ability to pay close attention to my breathing, posture, and alignment. The studio was slightly warmer than I was used to, and that warmth combined with the focus helped me get into the best-feeling wheel pose I’ve had in quite a while. My spine arched back effortlessly, whereas in the past few weeks it’s been pretty tight.

My yoga teacher training at Sun Moon Yoga Studios is helping me to embrace different styles of yoga and teaching me the importance of “letting go” of routine (as well as “letting go” of other things holding me back). I embraced this morning’s practice and if you get a chance to step into a different class or different studio, please give it a try!