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Monthly Archives: August 2012

My Beloved New Yoga graduates

Anyone interested in seeing my teachers in action will enjoy the slideshow I posted today on youtube of this weekend’s graduating class. It’s a brief way to glimpse the faces and personalities, as well as a general idea  of the intimate  journey into yoga I share with others……  These are the kinds of people who fill my world now…. My work is filled with introspective questions, smiles, laughter, tears (tears of recovery, just to be perfectly clear) and so much more.
My summer course featured a yoga therapy session with a 20 hour chair yoga certification. In order to fit this in, I could not give them an outdoor retreat day, but I figured summer is so hot they might be happy to forego a day in nature. Still I missed the bonding experience of breaking bread and doing a practice outdoors.  Spring 2012        Fall 2011


My spring training did include a day outdoors doing yoga, journaling and canoing as well as my now famous buddha trail in the woods. I’ll share that RYT video too just to show how different each yoga training experience is. Ah heck, as long as I’m at it, I’ll post the previous (first) course too. That is the one where I trained David along with 18 others. That session, the entire process of yoga training was new for everyone – including me. I learned a great deal, and my program has evolved since. Every course gets more organized, defined and I get stronger as a trainer and have so much more to offer. So check out the slideshows and then, I’ll talk about my summer…


Last but not least, as long as you are enjoying videos, you have to check out my aerial yoga slideshow. This reveals that quirky, fun side of yoga that has served to put my school on the map. It has been so fun diving into a new adventure, and aerial yoga broke the mold for me.
Love it.

O.K. Now for the official blog post of rambling thought.

I just finished teaching a yoga immersion course at the same time I taught regular summer dance and yoga classes, ending with a two week daily dance intensive – all which means I worked 7 weeks without a day off. You can throw into the mix a weekend chair yoga training course and an aerial yoga training course for teachers too.That kind of schedule would be grueling by most people’s standards, and yet, it wasn’t as physically taxing as I expected. I truly love what I do- there is a crazy wonderful balance about teaching dance with all it’s passion and aggressive power and teaching yoga with its calm, reflective focus.

They say dance is external movement  while yoga is internal movement. I see the two as the yin and yang of movement and my relationship with both at this stage of life somehow blends to give me balance. Mostly I love that I can  draw from my past, my present and my dreams for the future to help a diverse range of students learn about themselves, their bodies, art and the art of living. I now work with young people as well as mature people and both spectrums offer a different kind of life insight and energy. Perhaps I just come to the table with deeper appreciation for my work having left it for awhile, or perhaps the fact that I am no longer influenced by others who felt less sincerely connected to the process of giving through art (for them, art was more about what it gave to them personally rather than a way to give to others) has provided me with permission to celebrate what I love and not appologise for my wanting to dive in and devote energy, resources, and time to this karma process.

Anyway, I will miss he wonderful 16 people I had the intimate and intense experience of yoga training with. They were a diverse, funny, insightful group. Sisters in heart, one and all.

My yoga training course is far more comprehensive than what I was exposed to in my own yoga teacher training.  My teachers were wonderful and the school authentic,  so I am in no way implying they didn’t do a great job, but the program didn’t cover many things I feel necessary to prepare teachers for a career in the field. I sure had to fill gaps left and right to do the job correctly. So now, my students learn all the basics of posture focus and anatomy (a far more comprehensive anatomy section than what I received) as well as in-depth study of the yoga sutras and chakras as defined by yoga alliance. But I also give them level one Reiki training, as well as certification in aerial yoga. Then, because I think it is so important for yoga teachers to understand the wide berth of yoga and the systems of training that are popular so they can work with a diverse population of students and know the differences in style, attitude and form, I introduce them to the theory and practice of yin yoga, kundlini, hot/power yoga, ashtanga, Iyengar & restorative, and I throw in fun stuff like partner yoga. I teach them journaling and meditation too. I stuff so much into the training that every moment is filled with productive work. They have to come in for three extra hours during the week to practice if they want down time to review.   My 200 hour course actually takes 230 hours. The students end by teaching a class on their own to the public. My trainees graduate with full understanding of  the broad scope of yoga, and they have a wealth of information at their disposal to draw upon. I encourage them to not regurgitate the information and try to be a mini-me, but to find their unique voice as teachers. Mostly, by exploring all yoga, we find the core principals that are in all styles, and that boils down to what I call “big yoga” or the yoga that goes beyond the mat. It’s the life principals that make yoga more than a physical practice, and learning how to teach big yoga in just a one hour mat class is the challange I put to my yoga teachers.  

Life seems to show more promise and adventure every month now, and my work is a huge part of why I get up, eager to face the day each and every day.
I’m lucky.

And wait till I tell you what I’m up to next at my business – hot stuff……. but that must wait for another post. 


Writing whispers when life is simply too loud …

  I have been a writer all my life. I kept journals and wrote stories as a child. When I lived in New York I attended all kinds of writing workshops and writer’s groups. I wrote poems, stories, lyrics (which I dared sing in clubs) and tried my hand at a historical novel, although I only wrote about 150 pages. I still have it. The writing isn’t bad, but the storyline is silly. I think writing, like wine, gets better with maturity. Life experience and the expression of thought needs time to ferment to develop deeper flavor.

When my children were first born, my writing faded to the quiet corners of my mind. I was swamped with work and I had no choice but to devote all my attention to building a new business to support the family. Our dreams often get buried under the demands of life during those thirty-forty years.

There are two powerful books that address how this comes to be. One is The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer – a short prose about living an authentic and meaningful life. The poem promotes a life of artistic expression and joy but also says:

“It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.”

That pretty much explains how dreams slide when life gets demanding. When I left New York, my children and later my spouse and his dreams, just seemed more important than my own artistic ambition. I always felt my time to pursue the things I loved would come later… My first priority was taking care of the people I loved.  

I still wrote in the quiet moments. Even while running Flex, I wrote a novel (and one half of two other books). I wrote letters – partly to express myself but mostly because I lived a very alienated life, at least emotionally. I was deeply lonely and craved connection – physical and emotional. I filled that emptiness by putting words on paper. Perhaps I needed an audience.  I believe I would have responded to anyone who cared to hear my voice and act interested in what I thought and believed about life. Letter writing evolved into blogging. Safer. Less intimate. But still, a craving for someone to listen. But mostly, blogging helped me wade through my inner life and better understand the connections (or lack thereof) in my world.  It wasn’t about an reaching an audience at all – it was about writing.  Only in retrospect do I see how desperately my art craved a bit of light and space.

There is another very powerful book about art (actually it was written by a writer and the examples within are primarily about writing) called The Artist’s Way. This book has a chapter about how important it is not to quit your day job in some selfish ideal that art requires your full attention. This author explains that a serious artist can not and should not separate him or herself from society to be “an artist”. A powerful artist has to engage in life, get his or her hands dirty and be out there with people and the challenges of life to tap into that human element that gives something of value to share. This truly resonates with me. I moved to the mountains with a romantic notion that I needed nature and solitude and time without having to make a living to apply myself to writing in a serious way. Like Walden Pond. I felt that full focus was the path to seriously attend to my art, so I enrolled in school and earned my MFA, ready to give my writing the shot it deserved. But I found myself less productive and less inspired during that time when I had unlimited time and space to create. I produced better art when engaged in the meaty process of living and there was less time to feed my artistic angst and a beautiful walk in the woods or time messing around my barn couldn’t lure me into procrastination. It is just too easy to push art aside when there was always tomorrow to make a masterpiece. Too much time can easily lull you into wasting the most precious commodity we have.
Life and all it’s complexity is a muse. A busy life holds a microscope up to to the details about people, society, your inner world – all the things that exemplify the human condition and make art have more substance.  Being a serious artist does not mean you stop being a mom or a friend, or an attentive lover, or a productive member of society, and art certainly doesn’t require solitude or attention 24/7. You have to have something to say as the purpose for creation, because that is what art is all about. If you only surround yourself with is art and solitude, you only have art and self to talk about rather than deeper reflections of the world at large. Kind of a catch-22. Art Myopia.

If you study the greatest artists of all time, they all had a day job. Heck, Thoreau worked in a pencil factory – his Walden Pond experiment was not indicative of his lifestyle and he did not live free of social expectation despite his theoretical essays about man’s need to do just that to live a soulful existence. His time on Walden Pond was only one small portion of a life that included hard work, compromise and many practical choices too. Struggling to find balance between supporting oneself and handling life responsibilities while continuing to passionately dive into some form of artistic expression  has been the challenge and the reality of just about every great artist in history.

In yogic thought, there is a theory that faith and practice untested is worthless. It is easy to live true to your yoga principals in a monastery or living in a cabin in the woods. But try living with compassion and faith – try being good to others and to live your beliefs when you struggle with the frustrations of living in the bustle of a busy, stressed population. Practice your yoga (and I don’t mean the physical) when it requires strength everyday to not slip and react poorly to the triggers that are busy life’s minefield. Be a good yogi when you are paying bills, forced to get up everyday and go make money in a field you don’t love, and while meeting responsibilities or dealing with jerks in line at the bank. This is how you develop true spiritual muscle based on practical application rather than theoretical talk.
I think art is like that too. Want to prove you are a true artist? See if you can create something of value after doing the dishes and the laundry and paying the electric bill.  

I think about these mentioned favored  books and the concepts within often when I miss the mountains, crave free time and the promise my life held a few years ago. We grow from adversity. And for that, I can sincerely thank my ex. He may have taken a great deal from me, but his folly gave me a great deal at the same time. Thus is the beautiful balance of life when you recognize growth is painful and yet poignantly sweet.  I retired a few years ago with enough money to live a comfortable, financially stress free existence for the rest of my days. I was up for our huge life reinvention because it meant I could have total freedom to care for my family and pursue my writing without worry or hardship. That was my dream come true – not having money to spend extravagantly, but having money to support a simple life of quiet contemplation. The possibilities for contentment and happiness was indescribable…. but only two years into our life reinvention, my spouse not only had spent every cent we had on excessive grandiose projects, but he had driven us a million dollars into debt. So much for bliss and the luxury of pursuing your art in a life of simplicity as we planned.

I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say life fell apart financially, and then we fell apart emotionally, and I pretty much wanted to crawl under the covers and never come out. It wasn’t just the disappointment over losing my life as it was, but I mourned the life I felt entitled to because I had earned time it from years of sacrifice and patience – years of putting the task of making money and taking care of everyone ahead of my own personal dreams. I was also hurt that my dreams had been squandered. They simply were not considered worthy of protecting by a life partner of 20 years who chose to fulfill his own desires first, foremost and at the expense of the entire families security and protection. Accepting the painful reality of how imbalanced and one-sided our love was had to be the worst of it .
But as the prose says,  I knew what had to be done…. I made the hard choice to change my life, leave things I loved behind, and push my personal dreams aside (again) to leave the mountains and start over with another business in Flor
ida, the one place I knew my vision could thrive enough to meet the future demands of the family. It was a dark time, but on days when I couldn’t bear my situation or I was deeply sad over my losses, I just remembered The Invitation and I’d say the words to myself like a mantra…. Even if I am filed with grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, I need to do what needs to be done to feed the children.”
I must have read the Invitation to my yoga students a hundred times…  needing reinforcement to get through those times.

My ex chose to handle the financial crisis differently, deciding it was his turn to be happy and pursue his art despite the fact that our distressed circumstances were a result of this very attitude of self indulgence and short term consideration. For a while he worked from home sporadically, then as he became less productive,  he gave that up too. This led to his being financial insolvent and he faced bankruptcy, applied for food stamps and he stopped supporting our children, first financially then emotionally. His justification for the withdraw is that he is an artist. He even wrote the kids a letter explaining that he didn’t believe in society’s definition that being a good father meant a man had to support his kids- that the best way he could be a good father was to live true to his art. He claims they will understand and respect his turning away from social expectation when they are older and they will appreciate how he chose to celebrate his talent and follow his personal calling instead of laboring to attend to others (their) needs. He also made it clear he doesn’t plan to work in a traditional job ever again, and he must mean it, because he was using a hip replacement to attempt to get on disability permanently so he can make art for the rest of his days while living on social services. 

He had the same settlement as I – enough money to begin a fresh life unencumbered with baggage from the past. I spent my money paying off every debt, opening a business and planning for the long term. He spent his on another indulgent house remodeling project, then bankrupted his debt, avoiding responsibility and thrusting himself into a state of financial crisis again. He says he no longer believes in making money because he is “new age”. Funny, my entire world is filled with yoga teachers, Reiki healers,  new-age  artists and bohemium types and not a one of them defines “new-age” as acting in a financially irresponsible manner. On the contrary, my new age friends are more conscientious and moral, and socially responsible, not taking advantage of the system, than anyone I know.

His self definition as a  struggling, new age artist feels romantic, I suppose. He is a talented and creative man, and I agree he is an artist and should be creating. But I don’t see him producing anything of greater merit than what he produced in the past when he had more resources and deadlines to meet etc…..  In fact, I believe his art was more diverse and more filled with passion and unique expression before we moved and made a big tado over our celebrated role as artists. Ever since he was 23 I’ve watched him use one health issue after another as an excuse to cop out of doing things he doesn’t want to do –  the invalid trump card is his favored escape. And that doesn’t serve him or his art either – at least not beyond the moment.   

His life choices don’t affect me in such a personal way anymore, and for that I am grateful. But it does continue to make me contemplate art and excuses and the yoga concept of satya, which means truthfulness (being truthful to others, but mostly to yourself and recognizing how you make internal excuses rather than see with clarity what you do and how it affects others.)   

It took a few days for me to wrap my brain around his letter to the kids. My first reaction was anger – his choice to pursue his art robs me of  opportunity to pursue my own since I am wrestling with a double financial burden as result of his not doing his part. (another yoga concept called asteya or non-stealing, which goes beyond that idea that you don’t steal material things. You also don’t steal the more primal rights of others – meaning their energy, resources, or their right to express themselves or live without burdens you create that are yours alone to carry.)   I guess I was also perturbed by the example he set for our children because I so desperately want them to grow up with integrity as responsible adults.  But after a day or two of feeling anger, I just felt sad. His choices are his to make, and I no longer have to suffer the results of his actions beyond the annoyance of a few custody issues he drags out that make simple matters more costly and emotionally difficult than necessary.  I guess I just feel art demands a generosity of spirit and lots of self discipline, and to me his choices reveal a lack of both. Because of that, I feel he will not get what he longs for and that is sad – for him, for our kids, and for art in general – because the world of art needs and deserves talented individuals like him.  
People make choices according to what they feel is most important. Art and the freedom to follow one’s heart is important – I agree. For me, taking care of my children is following my heart.  I am not a martyr.  I’m just doing what instinct tells me a parent should do. Anyway, life is all about choices and I strongly believe that my art will be better because of the choices I’m making. I certainly know my life will be. That is what keeps me going.

Now that speech makes me sound theoretically respectable, but the reality is, life isn’t easy and sometimes that pisses me off and I behave badly because of it. Being tired and frustrated and feeling taken advantage of can make toads come out of one’s mouth. I try to get along with my ex, but some days I just can’t help but react to his abuse of my time, effort and willingness to take up his slack because I should be free of that dynamic. Let his next wife handle the burden of being married to someone who wants to be taken care of constantly.   I work 7 days a week currently, and I have no choice but to make personal sacrifices that exhaust me mentally as well as physically as I channel every cent I have into helping my kids rather than take a small vacation to refresh my soul or pay off a pending bill to give myself less stress. The primary focus of my life lately has been keeping my son in college and providing opportunity and security to my daughter and oh how I spin my wheels work-wise to do just that. All work and no play makes Ginny a dull girl.  And when my son tells me Dad sleeps in every day and makes quiet dinners at home every night and watches los of Dr. Who, and my ex follows that with a letter saying he plans to get a job in three years (when my daughter is conveniently 18 and no longer requires support) just sets me off. Hate when that happens. I meditate, come back into balance and swear I won’t let his disfunction bother me. But it does.

Some days I’m so overwhelmed with the financial burden that I just want to quit, find some well established guy to take care of me, and give up the struggle for independence and my personal ideals all together. (Sorry David… just a honest admittance of the occasional weak thought. This is in no way a comment on your present situation, nor is there any threat that I would ever make choices influenced by my upon wanting life to be easier…)  The temporary thought passes and I respond by sitting my butt down at the computer to do some marketing to crank up my earning potential. I’m working on a business plan today as I consider expanding my business. Whatever it takes to feed the children, ya know.

At the end of the day when the work is done, I often sit on my porch with glass of wine and contemplate how different my life could have been had I been able to pursue my dreams unencumbered by all this responsibility. And in these quiet moments I have to remind myself that I can make art anywhere – it is simply a matter of priorities and commitment. And I remind myself that this time of hardship is really a gift, because I am in the thick of life, testing my resolve and commitment everyday…. learning and growing, whether I like it or not. If the struggles of life fuels art, I have a tank overflowing with fuel. And there is a lovely bi-product of being challenged. You get to see what you are made of. And my kids see it too.

I am very, very proud of how much I’ve accomplished in two years – going from total life annulation to a new life that holds promise for success on so many levels. I’m excited with the direction my business is going – it may end up bigger and more diverse than my last business – or so it appears at the rate things are going. I feel passionate about my work. I love what I do and I serve others in a meaningful way. I am learning new things, growing in directions I never would have gone had life been easier. My world is filled with beautiful, heartfelt people now and I feel connected on deeper levels to my students, my daughter, my partner and my staff. I’ve been introduced to new concepts, Eastern thought and practice constantly challenges my Western mind.  I’m proud of the fact that I’m taking care of my kids too, and showing them what it is to be responsible, strong and resourceful. When I focus on how my kids are doing and realize that every month I’m in a position to do more for them, I can sleep at night  – trust me, for two years I spent every night  awake with feelings of despair and worry over them. From the moment my children took their first breath I wanted to be an accountable parent. I’m doing that. In the end, this is what makes me feel good about my world, even if some days I want to just run away from the endless struggles. 

Anyway, how does all this relate to the subject of writing  and art?
In the midst of the crisis of life recovery, I again had to put my writing aside. Seemed more painful this time because I came so close to having my coveted art infused life and I went through all the work of earning an MFA in support of that dream. But every once in awhile, that yearning to apply myself to “the dream” rears its head anyway.  On those days, I spend a few hours writing, or I’ll send out letters to agents looking for representation for the book I wrote two years ago, My Million Dollar Donkey just to remind myself that life can and should be about more than constant work and taking care of everyone else.  

A year ago, I went to a writing convention and had an appointment with an agent. She talked to me for over an hour – the appointment was only supposed to be 15 minutes, but she was extremely interested in my story so we talked a long after others had closed up shop. She asked me to cut the book from 120K words to 90K words explaining that the shorter length was best for a memoir from a first time author for marketing and publication reasons. I was in the process of that huge rewrite project when I got a call that my daughter was in the hospital. She had emotional problems that were manifesting in serious self-harming issues I won’t go into here. I stopped bloggin because I never wanted to rant about the drama of my divorce or my fight to gain custody of my daughter, so I wont’ start now.  I’ll just say that at the time, I worried all the time about her – and when she got sick and all kinds of information tumbled forth that had been withheld from me, it became clear that all the concerns and fears that had tortured me for two years proved true. I was devastated. Angry. Filled with regret and despair that I didn’t fight harder or smarter or do whatever it took to protect her from a situation I instinctually knew was wrong for her.  

With only a day’s notice, she came to live with me. I was relieved to finally have the opportunity to care for her, but now, every resource I had – my time, money, emotional fortitude, etc.. had to be applied to helping her recover. She is damn more important to me than any book I might write or want to sell, so I took care of her rather than finish the rewrite or keep in contact with that agent, (and for the record, there is not a day goes by that I am sorry I had to do that.). After about 6 months, she seemed less fragile and I started rewriting and cutting the book when I had a free morning or late at night when she was sleeping. Eventually, the revised version was finished, but I never did send it to the agent. If you wait a year after a meeting, that opportunistic moment has passed. 

Anyway,  my daughter is doing exceptionally well. She is happy and balanced and full of spirit. Filled with a healthy curiosity about life, she is a bundle of energy, smiles and ambition, and I no longer have to worry about her moods or what she might do because of them. At last I don’t have to make her the highest priority every hour of every day. We are just a normal mom and daughter now, with warmth, laughter, fights and sighs a part of everyday. As life balances out,  I’ve begun to sense the pull to attend to my writing again. So, one day, a month or so ago, I sent a few letters out to new agents.  I wanted to reactivate that small smidgen of hope for my dreams to come alive again.  And low and behold, a month later, I got a response from a very well respected agent – the president of an agency in New York, who I never even solicited. She came across my proposal and sample chapters because a colleague passed them on to her thinking my book was right up her alley. She told me she very much enjoyed what she read so far- and wanted to see more. I quickly looked her up wondering if she was legit, discovering she is extremely accomplished  and respected and she  favors books about personal growth, women’s journeys, organic living, and life philosophy. Um… no wonder a colleague passed my work on to her – her  description of the material she is looking to represent defines my book.
I sent her the full manuscript with my marketing platform. This is the first time a professional agent has asked for the manuscript when it was really ready. The book has been reworked, shortened, tightened up, and also diligently line edited by David, who has carefully gone over every sentence of my book 5 times…. he is my biggest supporter and remarkably talented as an editor. His support and encouragement will be a huge factor in my success if I ever have any, because he doesn’t just give lip service to supporting my dreams. Rather, he shows he truly wants me to achieve my heart’s desire, proving it by not only  reading my work, but doing so objectively to give me important feedback – a supportive partner is the most valuable critique partner a writer can  have. 
Anyway, I now anxiously await a response. Funny, when you feel hope is lost, something small can happen and you instantly perk up. You even wonder if all the turns and obstacles life throws your way wasn’t a test of your fortitude and determination to stick to your guns. Dues paid in some kind of artistic karma test. The long, hard road will certainly make success sweeter when it comes. She may or may not want to represent me. No matter what happens, I feel my artist spirit finally reigniting after that long sabbatical.

Deep down, I have faith that my time for writing is coming. If my book does not get picked up by this agent, then another will find it. Whoever publishes it will not be disappointed. I can sell this book. People ask me for it all the time – writing students, yoga students, and others. My choice to return to the world of the living to open a business and be a public figure again, my choice to work on this book rather than another, etc.. etc… is all a part of a bigger picture. Everything happening to me feels connected….. and it all feels a part of a bigger journey yet to come.
The other day I ran the statistics. This blog gets an average of 390 readers a day. Not bad considering I’ve only recently returned to posting entries. Now that I’ve begun writing again, I feel ready to start a new book about my yoga journey, a memoir about the next chapter of life and the lessons learned as I explore Eastern philosophy and new age concepts coming to the table as a semi-skeptic. There is a great deal of humor, poignancy and adventure in my yoga, reiki, meditation, auyerveda adventure. I should be capturing the details as I go – for me, my kids, others, prosperity. If life has taught me one thing, it is that I am a teacher. I teach many subjects to many audiences in many ways. Teaching is my dharma….. and writing is teaching in a significant way.
Somehow I think everything in my life fits together like the quiet before the storm. The good news is, the storm isn’t heavy winds to worry about or brace for. When my writing finally gets it’s turn at bat, it will be more like singing in the rain, dancing and enjoying the refreshing downpour after a really long draught.
I will do what needs to be done to feed the children…. meanwhile, I will use my weariness and bruised bones to create art that feeds something within…..  and processing those exp
eriences will produce art that will someday feed others as well…. It’s all a part of a bigger whole.

It all sounds good to me

This weekend was all about sound for me. I organized a special “introduction to Kundalini” class for my yoga teacher’s in training. The class, very focused on energy pathways and vibrations, ends with a gong meditation. The half hour devoted to savasana with the deep rich sounds of a gong being tapped over and over, filling the room with this amazing vibration is felt deep in your gut. The process is moving in a way I can’t describe. You have to experience it. I had forgotten how much loved the gong elemet of class the last time I brought this teacher to ReFlex. I’ve been looking at a huge gong for sale on craigslist for several months, but I just didn’t want to invest in more teaching materials at this time. This particular gong hasn’t sold due to a small crack on the outer edge (and I guess not a lot of people are looking for a 3 foot gong) and because it is a bit beat up. These gongs are usually 1600 new, and this one was on sale for 300. But I was so inspired by the class I called the seller that night, drove to Tampa and picked it up – talking him down to 200 due to the gong’s condition and the fact that it hadn’t moved after being listed for months. So I have a big ol’ gong of my own. I can’t wait to add gong meditaton to my classes now. 

(The gong has been sitting against a wall in my meditation room for two days. We plan to hang it tonight. Need a special big hook to keep it away from the wall to clear vibration – then its the gong show for me when I feel its time to make some noise! Think I can gong dancers when they don’t point their feet since it’s there in the room????)
The next day, I hosted a Kirtan at my ReFlex – also a part of my wanting to expose each group of yoga teacher’s in training to the vast shades and approaches to yoga. 

My training program is very diverse and focused on  studying not one method of yoga that the students are taught to regurgitate as teaches, but a broad look at the big picture of yoga. I think it is important teachers develop a wide berth of knowledge and then use your instincts and what resonates within to find their unique “voice” as a teacher. Anyway, for those that don’t know, a Kirtan is a musical event where people gather to chant, sing indian songs (usually in sanskrit), feel the vibration created by a collective group and to meditate. It can feel a bit new-agey weird to some newbies, and occasionally people are resistant to singing songs that are heavily hindu oriented – they are not sure they want to sing Hare Krishna over and over again, but I do what I can to put the event in perspective so students can enjoy the experience either academically or spiritually. It is all a matter of each student remembering to keep an open mind and consider this element of yoga as an exercise in tapping into your inner emotions and energy levels – a musical exploration.  Whether enjoying Kirtan becomes an embraced part of each student’s practice is entirely up to them – but they should experience it.
I always  adore the Kirtans at ReFlex. I love seeing the room fill up with people and witnessing  their reactions to the songs. Some people get deeply into the music, and others observe conscientiously and just enjoy the unity of everyone gathering. Others are  self-conscious and silent. Others just let go and let their voices ring out – even badly. There are always a few hippy Kirtan groupies. They are fun to have around because they are enthuasiastic and they jump in clapping or singing. The way they relish each chant is like watching someone who loves chocolate sink their teeth into a great truffle. Bliss. If you are a student of nature and people (I surely am) there is a great deal to observe and appreciate in a unique event like a kirtan – especially when you note the difference between those that are attending for the first time and those that make Kirtan a regular part of their lives.

David plays both guitar and sitar (and indian instrument that is like a guitar). He bought me a guitar when we first started dating and we only recently have gotten around to his teaching me to play.

I’ve had to lose the lovely fingernails because I just can’t press down on the frets with my former groomed talons, and after every lesson, the tips of my fingers smart. But  I’m cool with the small beauty sacrifice because it is fun to learn something new – even if I have doubts I’ll ever be very good. I look forward to playing well enough to bring my guitar into a yoga class to play softly during meditations or to guide others in a musical om or chant. I have a teacher who does that now and again and many students feel music makes for a richer yoga experience. As soon as I get the basics down on the guitar, I’m planning to learn the harmonium too. That’s an easier instrument to play and a great addition to a kirtan or yoga event should I want to run one myself later. 
Anyway, music is the next frontier for me….. I’m even starting to sing again. I’ve discovered that when I am not aiming to be “onstage” as when singing for theater, my voice rings out clear and easy and softly in tune. Funny, I hated singing when I felt the purpose was to entertain others. Too much pressure to be good. When I just sing for myself, it feels natural and right. I think that kind of singing comes from a more organic place because it derives from a totally different intention. 
Makes sense because as I make evidently clear to my yoga students, intention defines what life is all about. Intention is the true judge of character, action, and purpose. But enough yoga-speak. 
The big question is…… Does the girl with the biggest gong win? ( because mine is a bit bigger than the Kundalini teachers, for the record…. 

Sitting down on the job

Last weekend, I taught a huge chair yoga therapy workshop at ReFlex. Teacher’s training has become a significant focus for my business. Helping teachers understand & organize material, enhance their communication skills, and get a broader scope of their profession  seems to be my gift. I love the work – love guiding intelligent, passionate adults who expand the envelop and strive to learn new things. I love the subject of yoga and spending a weekend totally immersed in education & movement and laughter. I love the intimate connection and friendships I form with these holistic, warm-hearted people – the jokes, taking tea breaks, the questions and the way everyone offers insight and provoking thought as they share their experiences. Students seem to be extremely happy with my courses and my reputation as a teacher’s teacher is growing. It’s fair to say that this has become my niche in regards to yoga and my role as a director of a dance and yoga studio. I’m working now to add additional programs – in both dance teacher’s training and yoga training. Most importantly, I feel passionate about the subjects, I enjoy the work, and I feel I’m contributing in a major way to others. This is what one calls, “right livelihood.” It feels good on every level.

I’ve taught 3 Registered yoga teacher 200 hour programs so far, and trained over 45 yoga teachers just in this first year. I’ve taught 5 aerial yoga workshops and certified over 100 yoga teachers in this new technique at the same time. And now… I’ve moved on to include chair yoga certification. Last weekend was my first 20 hour course and I had 26 people attend. 

I tend to put come up with ideas for training far in advance. I do the marketing, and get my personal certification, training and experience necessary to be well versed in the subject, but I don’t always have time to plan exactly what I want to do in my course that differs from what I’ve been exposed to. Then, I wake up one day and think – heck, I have a bunch of teachers enrolled for a course in 10 days and don’t have notes or a syllabus or a plan or …..  shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
And I hustle and pour myself into the subject and because I feel inadequately prepared, I over-prepare and before you know it, I’ve covered the subject well beyond what others might bother to do. I always give ten times more than necessary – but that feels right and true to me. It’s kinda my dharma to give wholely as a teacher and to prod and poke a subject to explore the nooks and crannies of the material that others might overlook.  I sit down with coffee and a notepad and write everything I needed to know to become a dynamic,confident and well-versed teacher of the subject. I list everything I felt is/was missing from my training or education to get there. Then I set about figuring out how to fill in the blanks so my students don’t have to struggle to figure it out the hard way or through mistakes, and so they never walk away feeling the course was not worth the investment of time or money. 

In the case of chair yoga, I took a course a year ago in Orlando for certification. I was gravely disappointed because we didn’t really learn anything more than a few obvious poses and easy stretches. I hated that I spent so much and took precious time away from my life to attend a course that gave me nothing more than a piece of paper allowing me to teach chair yoga officially. We never discussed chairs or the common health issues that would cause a person to be chair bound or anything else pertinent to the special population that is drawn to this kind of class. I spent the weekend feeling like the instructor was just trying to fill time with anything to keep us busy – she reviewed basic yoga philosophy and talked about chakras as if we never heard of them, but we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know as trained yoga teachers. I  thought, Man, if I taught this course, I’d add all kinds of anatomy & physiology about sitting, and I’d discuss the mindset of people with limitations. I’d explore chairs and all the different kinds of chairs people might be in when taking a chair yoga class. I’d divide the subject into three levels – level one for the severely impaired or elderly, level two for people who need a chair just because of wrist issues or a knee or hip replacement that makes it hard for them to get to the mat, and I’d spend a brief time on level three using a chair to show what you can do for an advanced practice (and cover Iyengar theory material.) 

A year later, I found myself planning to teach the course – and I chose to do it my way. I started doing research, writing notes and I created a course that included all I wished I had been taught when I took the certification. Two nights before the class I had David meet me at the studio to take last minute pictures of poses I wanted to cover – it was just easier than writing a description of each and every pose. I didn’t have make-up on, my hair wasn’t up, and I wasn’t dressed as I might have been had I planned for pictures , but for all practical purposes, it was just what I needed to finish my notes. We even took pictures in a wheelchair…
(I’ll take better pictures when I turn this into an official book or notes – and I’ll lose 5 pounds first – eeek, I’m getting old!) I came up with an easy to follow set of notes and the session turned out everything I imagined and more. Cool!

(David was like – why do I have to be the old fart in the wheelchair!)

I purchased a wheelchair on craigslist the week before, and had the teachers explore the limitations of that seat. Whoever used the wheelchair in practices could not get up – which was a great stretch for both the student and the teacher’s working in a teaching practium (practicing teaching) as well. I dragged in office chairs and chairs with arms, and had 26 folding chairs, including 8 chairs with the back removed (Iyengar chairs) for the traditional chair yoga practice. I assigned David the anatomy portion of the class, and he did his usual remarkable research to prepare a two hour lecture on ailments and limitations of aging bodies on day on
e, and he gave a very involved pranayama lecture and practice (breathwork) on day two. I had the students watched a video on yoga therapy that I believed would help the teachers consider the body/mind connection and increase awareness of the average chair yoga student’s mental state and the special complications and challenges of teaching yoga to handicapped, elderly, or physically challanged people. We discussed pain management and stress and how to help students handle that as well. All told, it was a hugely successful weekend. I look forward to teaching a chair workshop again next summer, if not before then. 

So, what’s next? I’m going to get pre-natal yoga certified in an 85 hour course in San Francisco this fall. I will carve our 8 days even though that will be hard on many levels, to take a trip to get this accomplished in the most practical way. I will be alone in San Francisco (a place I love) for 8 long days, but I will use my down time to write or draw in my room – to reflect and get some much needed peace and quiet. I will come home with more skills to share with my customers and students. I’ll layer this subject into my upcoming RYT 500 course (Something I’m offering next fall that is taking me a year to prepare for) and as a special 85 hour training course. At the same time, I’m enrolled in a year long ayurveda course in California to become an ayurveda counselor starting this september (and in year two I’ll take the advanced practioner course if I love what I’m learning). I’m jumping into this wholistic medical approach to the mind/body connection because I’m facinated with the subject. Ayureveda includes herbology, energy systems of the body and alternative medicine. I’m figuring, for my purposes, I will use this training as a teacher more than as a practioner. But I would like to add ayureveda services to the school and I intend to make ayureveda approaches to health a huge part of my yoga 500 hour program. And I’m even open to the possibilities of creating and manufacturing products (soap, shampoo etc….) with a certified organic ayurveda base. Or writing about ayurveda processes. Who knows what I’ll do with the education in the end. I just know that everything I learn helps me grow as a person and as a teacher. And it makes me feel alive. Studying health makes you conscientious. You apply the theories and principals to your own world – you become healthier, more grounded and emotionally balanced because everyday you are reading, sharing and discussing these concepts. It is good to feel alive, and to know that there is a new discovery around every corner if you just approach life with an open mind and heart. Keep your eye on what counts – ya know. It is not about how much I can squeeze out of each training or experience for business purposes (that is the side benefit and how I can afford this ongoing discovery process) – It’s more about how this new path fuels me and gives me tools to share what I believe and have learned experimentally about life and balance with others. Life at long last for me is all about sincere connections – connections between people that are intimate and authentc, connections between our history and our future and how it all fits in, and the connection of who we are with what we do – it is living with pure intentions, and assuring your actions are not self serving or filled with justifications, and instead you act in a way that supports a life of integrity and purpose.  At least, that is my motto.
So far, so good.  

pencil journeys

Well… I’m no Rembrandt, but I’m holding my own in my drawing class. It is humbling to tackle something new at my age, yet fun too, because who cares how perfect each attempt is when you are just exploring the pencil for the first time? I’ ve moved from drawing squares and globes to hats and stumps on class 3 & 4. Next week, I’m told we will be doing what my teacher calls a “still life suicide.” He places three objects together one after the other to challange you with proportion an perspective and then throws a sheet over everything and you rdraw over your objects until the picture evolves to look like water that shows what is underneath. He says it is sometimes so frustrating everyone wants to kill themselves (thus the name of the exercise.) We’ll see. . . .

It’s enough to make you want to drink your still life!

Little things can make a big impact.

I ended up with 5 young lovebirds that sucessfully hatched. Watching them grow and change has been a kick. One baby hatched a full 8 days after the first bird arrived, so I have the luxury of seeing the young birds in different developmental stages side by side, making the miracle of their evolution obvious. They are just now feathering out, and they all have open eyes at last, but they still have a long way to go to look like normal birds. They are tiny, silent, and stay huddled in their dark nest all day. The parents spend most of the day outside enjoying their freedom, probably because 5 young birds huddled together create the warmth necesary to keep them thriving. 
It is time I start hand feeding  them if I want them to grow up extremely tame, but I worry that I’m so busy I may not be able to keep up with the schedule, so I’m not sure I should take over. It’s been an incredibly busy summer. But in the midst of all the work and hustle of my days, I always make time to check my lovebird nest – even if it is only for a stolen moment. Just goes to show there is always something simple to delight in if you slow down long enough to appreciate the little things.

Only a week ago they looked like aliens! Now they are adorable… in a dinosaur descendant sort of way.