Author Archives: Kate

Authenticity

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Teacher training is underway and I love it! All yoga all the time? Sounds good to me!

I’m a pragmatic student too. I want to be good, I have some anxiety about doing enough to pass and teaching “well enough” to stand in front of other people, but on the whole I want to do “enough” and not “perfect”.

My first practice teaching – to four other trainees and three trainers – went pretty well. I’m not a natural speaker and I get nervous, but I worked hard and knew the sequence and cues well. We only got brief feedback so I asked for more. And I’m glad I did!

Generally it was good. But the piece of advice I found most interesting was: be more authentic.

I get this. My voice sounded nervous. It’s true that I didn’t sound like myself. I want to sound like myself! I want to feel less nervous and more confident. I think this feedback is great because there is this sort of vague quality of authenticity that I can build and work on.

All that said… I was teaching to a room of people who already knew the “intro to yoga” sequence, including three teachers. My inflection raised like a question at some times … because I was unsure! Confidence is a good quality, but I wasn’t feeling confident! My instructions weren’t actually necessary for teacher trainees and yoga teachers.  I think it would be MORE “fake” to act as if I was teaching to real beginners … because I wasn’t!

So … was I really NOT being authentic?

I think I actually have a problem in my life being too authentic. It’s hard for me to act in a way that isn’t in line with how I feel. It’s often hard for me to conceal my emotional response, even when I would like to. If I’m upset, you will know it.  This especially! Definitely there are times when it would be better to conceal this.

I don’t want to make this comment about the feedback. Because it’s true that I could have been more “me”, more confident, less unsure. And I will work towards that. But I think talking about “authenticity” missed the mark here. Maybe this term has taken on celebrity status, as a stand in for “all that is good”.

Authenticity is good! But it doesn’t describe every situation.

It’s started

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I’ve started my yoga teacher training and I love it.

There are three trainers, seven trainees, two observing trainers, and the sessions are spread out over 9 weeks. It’s very organized (I love this) and focused on learning to teach an intro to power yoga class. It is still early on but it seems well rounded and focused on the things that are important to teaching a good class.

I’m pretty quiet but I’ve made an effort to participate by asking or answering questions. Interacting with people outside of the sessions seems okay as well. Although I love yoga and feel pretty comfortable with the postures in the intro sequence we are learning – I don’t love having people stare at me. I’m not 100% down on my body. I’m more okay with my body than I have been before. But it’s still hard.

So far my solution to this sort of challenge has been – just do it anyway. Get through it and it gets easier. That will probably be my approach here. Sometimes people say things like, “just don’t think about it” or “we all feel that way” … I don’t think these things are untrue completely, but I think someone who suggests just not thinking about it probably has not had similar struggles with body image and is not able to understand how deeply this stuff affects people.

I’m curious if anyone who has had similar body image struggles has advice or stories to share on this.

Someone Is Looking Out For You

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I got a fortune cookie that said this. Someone is looking out for you. I received it over a year ago and I still have the paper taped to my door, at eye level, so it’s the last thing I see before I leave home.

I don’t generally feel like someone is looking out for me. I usually feel like I need to stand up for myself, protect myself, make things right for myself, because if I don’t, no one else will. It’s probably one of my issues. But I’m working on it.

That’s a pretty tiring way to live! And kind of depressing, I guess. I read a book once – a self-help book – and it suggested thinking of your “protective person” – a grandparent or an older person who gives you advice and all. I couldn’t think of one. I haven’t been horribly abused or anything. And I’ve done okay. I haven’t given up on life or turned to drugs. There have been isolated incidents where someone stood up for me or whatever, and it was nice. But I don’t feel like there’s one person who protects me.

Obviously, for some people, it’s God who looks out for them and protects them and gives them guidance. I grew up without any religious background. I never went to church or got any religious training from my family or school. My grandfather was a minister. Weird, right?! I think so too.

I am kind of checking out churches now. I’m 35, so it’s pretty weird.I mostly felt excluded, and concerned that people would judge me very negatively for not going to church before that. I worried that I’d do something that offended people, or that made it immediately clear to everyone how clueless (and how in trouble with God!) I was. Not exactly that I’d be struck by lightening at the doorstep, but something like that.

A friend once said that going to mass was like a warm blanket. He even talked about not going up for communion – you need to be practicing Catholic to receive communion – as nice. “You just sit there…” I was so jealous! I LOVE warm stuff. And it just sounded like a comfort that I’ve been excluded from my whole life. This is probable a little over dramatic but it’s how I felt.

In any case, growing up like that, I certainly never felt like God was looking out for me. I kind of passively believed in God, if you can call it that. I didn’t ever actively dis-believe. I suppose that believe wasn’t very well developed. I guess the upside is – I’ve never been angry at God. I’ve never asked why bad things happen to good people. How can genocide happen? Because people have free will. Works for me! (Not to make light of genocide in any way… I’ve lived in a country that was very affected and I think mass killing is wrong, of course. It just doesn’t pose any conflict for my thoughts about God because, well, of course bad stuff happens in the world).

I like the idea that God is looking out for me. That God is always paying attention. That it will all balance out, all the rights and wrongs, in the end. But believing this just doesn’t come naturally to me. At all. And I wish it did.

 

All I did was … nothing

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I recently realize how much I love the length of my hair.

I wash it, of course, and dye it because I have some grey. I use a few basic products I use. And a straightener to cut down on frizz.

But the main way I achieved this fantastic length was … not getting my hair cut!

It makes me wonder what else in my life is like this. In what other ways can I just take it easy, be patient, hang on a little longer … and things will really pan out for me?

I’m quite Type A. I like to do stuff. I like to take initiative and get stuff done. Not all life is like hair, of course, but a lot of it is, like, you can cut things off but you can’t make them grow. (Well stated, I know). I sometimes struggle with when to let gravity do the work.

Maybe it is time to let things take their course and just wait a bit, instead of trying to fix things.

Why I Run

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June 4 is National Running Day. I think I started running (outside of the mandatory school mile that was basically sanctioned torture) almost twenty years ago, in my late teens.

I ran on a treadmill, I ran a few miles on the street, sometimes both in the same day. It was so long ago, I would drive the route in a car to find out how far it was. Running was one of my weight-loss strategies. To some extent it is/was also a maintenance strategy, and it’s more or less successful. The “less” is because I get so much hungrier when I do longer distances and still struggle with eating in the best way for myself.

About four years ago I joined a running group with a volunteer focus and it changed my life. The social aspect of that group, in the two major US cities I have volunteered in, is absolutely amazing. The friendships I have made through that group have outlasted most others over time and space. In this career-focused country, and in one of the most career-focused cities … I do not even know what all of those I consider friends do for work. This is rare!

In this group, no one runs alone, so sometimes I need to make it less of a work out and more of a team-support-thing. That has become okay with me. As much as I love yoga, I have never found the community in yoga that I have found in running. I once got in a serious dispute with roommates because they were offhandedly talking about runners being “jerks” after races. What?!

Why do you run?

Mirror, Mirror

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So, yeah, I hate them.

I started practicing yoga in a super cheap gym. I found a few amazing teachers and got hooked. Classes took place in the “group exercise” room, which had mirrors on two walls. I didn’t mind at first.  I also didn’t wear yoga clothes for a few months. Then I did but I was so used to the mirrors that they didn’t distract me.

Then I started practicing at studios, most of which chose not to have mirrors. And I agree with their reasons. We focus on outward appearance to the detriment of so many other things in our society … not being able to SEE how your body looks in a pose makes you focus more on how your body FEELS the pose … I have had some pretty big body image issues and I think it helps me to avoid mirrors.

Now, though, after a mirror-free period of several years – they are back. I practice in a place with mirrors and am committed to practicing there for at least a few more months. I chose this location and stand by my choice.

Still, the mirrors. I let myself get distracted by them. I look and look and hope I look thin rather than too large. I position myself in certain ways because of how I look, not because I am thinking about alignment. “Stop that” is easier said than done. It sounds like vanity…but vanity is a choice. Lots and lots of people have judged me – and others who are not or were not “thin enough” – negatively. That wasn’t my choice, but it affects how I feel now.

Mirrors can be helpful for alignment. It’s really, really hard for me to tell if my hips are squared forward in Warrior 1 or revolved crescent. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to get used to mirrors so much that they no longer matter. I’m just not there yet.

But where I am is: even though I don’t like the mirrors, I go practice at this place for the reasons I have. I wear the same yoga clothes. I see myself in a way I perceive as unflattering, and this is unpleasant for me, but I can let go of that thought and not let it ruin my day. Five years ago, I would have given up. This isn’t 100% where I want to be, but it is progress.

Zero tips for a better meditation practice

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This clever title is meant to imply that I struggle to maintain a meditation practice. It seems pleasant enough when I manage to do it, particularly when it’s on a regular basis. But I struggle. I miss days. I don’t always feel benefits right away. I think if I did, I would just do it without complaint, the same way I started going to millions of power vinyasa yoga classes – not out of some abstract sense of discipline, but because I felt great.
All kidding aside, here are some things that help me:
getting rid of judgement. I have plenty of thoughts. I do not always sit with a straight spine… I sit however is really, really comfortable for me. I sometimes open my eyes to look at my timer midway through! I can recognize that these things are not ideal, but if I expect to be prefect I will give up when I fall short.
keeping it to a relatively short time. Eight minutes is my max.
fitting it into my day. I sometimes have a 30-45 minute gap in my work schedule mid-afternoon, too late for lunch, and not really long enough to run an errand or whatever. Eight minutes of meditation is really nice here.
I’ve had yoga teachers and yogis highly recommend meditation or other forms of mindfulness throughout my life. In my experience there is a lot attached to this when it comes up in yoga. Having a therapist suggest it, in many forms including while walking, is what set me on my most recent kick.
Do you have a meditation practice? What has helped or inspired you?