Waking up this morning, with the reality of the situation truly sinking in. Last night, I had to teach two yoga classes in union square, NYC, the heart of the protests. I didn’t know what to expect and was praying for divine guidance to give me the strength to hold space for everyone in the room and to speak the truth that everyone needed to hear to heal - all the while hold back my own tears as my heart was still grieving. The second we collectively closed our eyes to watch our breath, tears. Women and men, young and old, all races, college students, executives, all crying together, vulnerably, in front of and WITH one another, grieving on our mats. About 50 people showed up to each class, that's over 100 New Yorkers in two hours, all experiencing and coping with the same range of emotions…TOGETHER. Tears were flowing throughout the entire two classes, all with the background noise of sirens and helicopters from the election protests going on simultaneously on the streets. This is our reality right now. People are hurting, devastated, horrified, outraged and in pain over the reality that this is the country we live in…but it was so UNBELIEVABLY INSPIRING to see over 100 people show up to their practice last night. Instead of the millions of options that we have here in the city that never sleeps, over 100 people showed up to their mats, to get still and get REAL with what’s really going on inside themselves, instead of self medicating or numbing and running from it. That is true courage. In the midst of a national tragedy to show up to your practice on your mat, as a collective whole, and step right into the pain, instead of running from it. This is the true spirit of a peaceful warrior - to collectively SHOW UP and pray for more love, and more peace, and divine guidance to give us the strength that we need to keep raising the consciousness in the midst of all the chaos… and grieve and heal together.
Holding space for others to heal last night was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in almost a decade of teaching, but seeing the unbelievable courage of the NYC community showing up in numbers to get real with what’s going, and to heal together, gave me strength. It gave me the strength and hope to get out of bed this morning and know that there is real work to do here.
Healers, yoga teachers, spiritual activists: we have a major job to do. Our local communities need us now more than ever, so please take care of yourself now so that you can hold the space for your students to grieve and heal and get still and simply BREATH consciously. Know that together, in numbers, WE have the power to raise the consciousness and inspire the healing and love in one another that this nation so deeply needs right now. WE will all get through this TOGETHER, because like the sun, we too can rise again from the darkness, and shine our light of love and compassion on everyone we meet during this time. I love you all.
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In just the last few years alone the amount of people practicing yoga has skyrocketed! The boom of new yoga students has also paved the way for almost as many new teacher training programs. Some students do teacher trainings just to deepen their own knowledge of the practice, but the majority enroll to become teachers themselves. After completing your first 200-hour training, there are so many different paths to take that simply getting started can feel a little overwhelming. After getting to work with and mentor many new teachers from all different types of trainings and backgrounds, I have come up with a few bits of advice to help new yoga teachers get grounded and feel comfortable in the new role they have taken on.
1. Gaining Teaching Experience
Many new teachers try to pile on the trainings as soon as they can. Take the precious time you have after your first training to absorb all of the information given to you (it's a lot!) so you can fully apply it to your teaching. If you do not practically apply what you've learned, you’ll lose it. Secondly, teach as much as you can! Your teaching practice is exactly like your yoga practice. As Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.” Consistency is key. A minimum of around 2-3 years of consistently teaching is a good indicator that you’ve had some time to apply what you’ve learned and really let it all sink in.
2. Take What You Can Get
This is something not everyone wants to hear. When you first start teaching, try to teach as much as physically possible, anytime and anywhere you can. You are new to this, and like tip #1, the best way to refine your skills is by actually practicing them! That means subbing last minute when the opportunity arises, adding on that weekly 6AM Friday class offered to you, teaching your friends or relatives in the park, or teaching a community class at your local studio. Do it! You will be so happy you did.
3. Be Open To Feedback
Most of the time spent in the beginning of your teaching practice will first be getting comfortable teaching what you have learned. The next chapter is uncovering and getting clear on your truth and values, and your highest intentions as a teacher in order to start teaching from an authentic place. A large part of that growing process is graciously listening to feedback, and discerning whether or not it aligns with your intentions and mission as a teacher. Sometimes feedback won’t always be what we want to hear, but we can only grow when we leave space open for improvement. This can be hard on the ego, but there is nothing more refreshing than hearing someone else’s perspective. Ask for feedback from your studio managers, your colleagues, family, or anyone you think would give you an honest and informed opinion of your teaching. From there, it is your choice to decide what to take to heart as valid and constructive and what to let go of.
4. Find A Mentor You Trust
Find a teacher who truly inspires you and who you’ve been practicing with for a few years. It is crucial that this teacher comes from a place of experience and is someone you have a personal relationship with – not just someone you did a one week intensive with or follow on social media. Having guidance when you need it is everything. Find a teacher you resonate with, take their class frequently, and ask to speak to them about the possibility of forming that relationship together. As students, we usually feel that connection instantly when we have found our teacher(s). Similarly, your intuition will tell you which teaching mentor is a good fit for you. Fortunately, some studios offer mentorship programs with their teachers, which can make the process a little more organized and your time in training will be credited.
5. Forever A Student
The writer Ray Bradbury said, “Do what you love, and love what you do.” The best yoga teachers are those that are forever students themselves. It is so important to be constantly learning and immersing ourselves in our field of study and within our community through reading, meditation, workshops, consistent practice, etc. Try taking classes outside of your comfort zone. If you are a vigorous vinyasa yogi, take a few restorative classes; if you like advanced postures, take some basics classes. When we step outside what is comfortable for us as students, we broaden our knowledge and increase our ability to become better teachers. We can also learn so much simply from supporting and taking other teachers classes in our community.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
We learn most about our truest selves and dive into our inner potential when we connect to ourselves through the yoga practice in meditation. Developing a home practice is essential. When we have a deep connection to ourselves, we are able to connect more deeply and authentically with our students. One of my teachers, Sri Dharma Mittra, will always set aside ten minutes before he teaches each class in order to relax and meditate, so he can come from a peaceful state while working with his students. It’s helpful to set aside time to practice and to meditate before you teach so that your energy is grounded and your words are coming from a place of truth. Committing to a home yoga and meditation practice helps us dive deeply into our practice to discover who we authentically are, at our highest and most true level, which in turn gives us the ability as yoga teachers to work with our students from a clear, authentic and compassionate place.
It's freezing over here. No literally, freezing; aound nine degrees fahrenheit all week, plus windchill (and the wind gets pretty intense when tunneling through all the buildings here) it's feeling way below zero. With all this cold weather added on to the already stressful NYC commute, we tend to be walking around in 18 layers of clothing, carrying some huge bag or suitcase of sorts, shivering with our shoulders up to our ears.
When I finally get back to my apartment after a long day of working, teaching privates and commuting around the city, I'll grab my bolster and take a solid ten minutes to just relax in restorative fish pose. If you don't have a bolster at home, you can use a thick bed pillow, or wrap around a few bath towels into a cylindrical shape. It looks like this:
Set the bolster about 2-3 inches away from your sacrum (so there is room for your lower back to rest) and just lay back and relax. If you feel you need more a chest opener, take cactus arms.. If you feel you could use some more grounding, take butterfly legs (shown.) If you'd like a little lower back relief then bring the knees together and the feet apart. Just take a few moments to get settled into the pose and see where your body naturally takes you. It tends to know exactly what it needs when we create enough space to be receptive and listen to what it's trying to tell us. This is a great pose to open the thoracic spine and chest, create a deep sense of relaxation and the perfect remedy to cure the winter blues. Stay for 3-15 minutes or however long you need! Hope you enjoy! xx
Since the New Year began, I've been starting the mornings off with one of my favorite drinks. It's a little strong tasting, but excellent for the digestive system.
1 cup warm (not hot) water
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tbsp raw honey
2 tbsp Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1 pinch of cayenne pepper, or cinnamon
Just mix it all up and have it before your breakfast or coffee. Try to wait a good 30 minutes to eat after drinking it. I tend to make this whenever I'm feeling I need a little detox cleanse or that my digestion could use a boost. Side-tip: if you're going to drink this frequently, make sure to use a straw in order to avoid enamel erosion from the citric acidity of the lemon juice.
Hope you love it as much as I do!! xxx