During February, I’m offering a 10€ discount on private lessons with me. You can find information on private lessons with me here.
Edit: This blog post was re-published on Elephant Journal in a slightly edited form, which can be read here.
I once posted the photo above to my Facebook page (although I find the all-caps bits weird and unnecessary). I stand behind it. It brings to mind another popular and bold slogan in the same vein, which goes ‘Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity’. The two slogans reprimand a wonky, illogical way of thinking about things. I’ve heard many times, especially from men, ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.’ The ironic thing is that for centuries yoga was something that only men were permitted to do. What a turn around.
Naturally when I hear this, I’m disappointed. I think it’s a shame someone won’t try something because it looks hard because he or she thinks there will be high expectations forced on them about how they should perform at something they’re new and inexperienced at. I’m not disappointed in the person as a person. I don’t think they’re less courageous or lazy or stupid. I think they’re doing what most people do: the thing that comes easiest, the path of least resistance. If you think you’re exempt from this, think a little more and a little harder about the things you love doing and why you do them.
People like being good at things, even if they’re only marginally good at them. Even if they’ve thought they would like to, for example, play fiddle in a blue-grass band, something I dreamt of doing for a bit. Then I found that I couldn’t listen to the sound of myself playing violin very badly while learning new songs with very simple notes that seemed difficult to manage, never mind the unfamiliar movements of the arm while playing. I didn’t like violin because I didn’t have any natural talent at it, at least to my ears. This correlation also strongly relates to my struggles with marketing in my freelancing work, as I’ve written about. Meanwhile, I found a few months ago that I could keep a beat on a set of drums with a certain amount of focus and the sound I was able to make was pleasing, so I’ve been slowly working my way into drumming and enjoying it, just as a hobby.
As these ideas relate to yoga, I took dance lessons from the age of ten to about nineteen. At twenty, I started doing yoga. While I was never the most talented or flexible dancer, moving from dance to yoga doesn’t require much effort at all. Flexibility is the first thing most people think of when they’re new to yoga and I already had that. I could move fluently and follow directions on how to move my body. I had an awareness of how my body moved. Balancing out your sides, doing the same action on one side as on the other, is even important in ballet, at least barre work, as it is in yoga. Moving from dance to yoga was an easy decision.
So, what can be learned from this idea that people, including you, like to do what comes easiest to them and avoid that which is very difficult for them?
First, it’s not wrong to do things you like doing because you’re good at them. It makes life sweet, enjoyable, and gives you things to feel confident about. You should never do things if the way in which you’re doing them diminishes your quality of life, making you miserable. As with my violin/drumming example, I changed my perspective on what I wanted. I wasn’t put off of music, I just found the thing that made me happier and came more naturally. As with my resistance toward marketing, I’ve changed my perspective on it and changed my approaches to make it more manageable and something that I feel good about, something that feels genuine for me. Doesn’t mean it’s easy for me but I know the importance of doing it will improve my quality of life.
This makes me think of priorities and delayed gratification. Changing your perspective on your priorities so that your health and wellness are placed higher. These are things that will allow you to do all other things well in your life, never mind as you get older. Delaying the gratification of feeling healthy and well for a little while of feeling challenged and having your ego take a few hits, as you learn the movements of yoga poses. A lot of getting ‘good’ at a physical activity, even marginally so, is largely about muscle memory. Getting the imprint of the movement in your body, so that the action itself isn’t strange and complicated anymore.
Making these changes could be the most important thing you do, whether it relates to yoga or whatever. It could be hard to do or maybe you’ll find it’s not as bad as you thought. It really depends on your priorities and your perspective. In any case, you will have tried. You’ll have made the necessary attempt toward change and that counts for so much. As a teacher, I’ve learned that more importantly than getting your nose to your knees is having a healthy spine and back, having strong, long muscles, waking up in the morning without pain, and having a few moments one day a week to focus on your breath, letting your mind calm down, even for a breath or two. I’m in awe of my students who struggle with both flexibility and strength and still come to class every week because they make the necessary attempt to change, no matter the results. From them, I learn about doing something that’s difficult and possibly not much fun because it is important and necessary to their lives. So if you think you aren’t flexible enough for yoga but you want to do it, think about the inspiration you could be giving other people by doing that thing that’s difficult because you wanted to do it and thought it was important to the quality of your life.
As a freelancer but also a relaxed person, I struggle with staying motivated. Everyday when I have to work on finding new students for my private or group classes, or writing to doctors offices and fitness centers, I have to get myself motivated. But I’m really good at distracting myself.
As a teenager (and still today), I loved the movie “The Dead Poet’s Society” because of its message of carpe diem, taking advantage of the day. That doesn’t always mean doing something crazy, sometimes it means doing something responsible and good for your future (like taking a regular, weekly yoga class for long term, improved health with me!). In any case, it means making the most of your day and not getting overwhelmed by planning for your entire future all at once.
All you have to do is take care of today and do the responsibilities of today. Christianity also shares this bit of wisdom (Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”). If the whole day still seems overwhelming, think about what needs to be taken care in the next hour. Or the next half hour. Take every moment step by step.
Class times and prices can be found here.
I’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather and running more often. I have an on again-off again relationship with running and have typically done it inside at the gym.
I’ve been running around our neighborhood in Kreuzberg. We live on Friesenstrasse and there’s a huge hill leading up to Tempelhoferfeld. Great for getting my heart rate up! I’m using my boyfriend’s iPhone and my Spotify account to make an exciting playlist. Give it a listen if you’re looking for energetic pop music to run to.
Don’t forget to stretch afterward though! I’ve immediately noticed how much tighter my muscles are if I don’t stretch after running. Maybe it’s time for a video on yoga for runners….
Here are four benefits that my students have had taking private yoga lessons with me.
1) It’s a break from work that’s all on your time!
Although taking a group yoga lesson also provides you a break from work, the benefit of a private is that it’s on your time schedule. We work together to find the best time for your lesson. As opposed to you having to come to the studio at a specific, inflexible time, privates can be delayed and moved if you’re running late or something comes up.
2) The lesson is all about you.
Private lessons are a wonderful time to delve deeply into your personal experience during yoga. Maybe you’ve always had a question about a pose or want to focus on a particular aspect of your life or body. We can explore that together. One day you might like a strong, powerful lesson to strengthen muscles and the other a really relaxing, stress-relieving lesson. Let me know and you got it!
3) Honestly, it’s a very traditional way to study yoga.
In the first part of the twentieth century, two of the great yoga masters who taught westerners yoga (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar) were taking “private” lessons with their guruji, T. Krishnamacharya. We should all be so lucky as to follow in their footsteps!
4) It’s an investment into your health and well-being.
Germans have a saying “He or she who buys cheap, buys twice”. Well, sometimes you’ll just take a group yoga lesson, no harm in that but taking private lessons are an investment into health and well-being in more ways than one. For one, you’re definitely going to be committed to learning in the lesson. Secondly, it’s a great introduction to home practice. Thirdly, we development a relationship based on giving you a healthy, happy body and that often keeps people motivated to keep training the body. Plus–new friend!
Edit: This article was republished in full by elephantjournal.com on April 7, 2015. You can read it here.
I don’t teach anything spiritual in my yoga classes. I don’t feel the need to and I have no personal interest, although I am curious and have an intellectual interest in religion and spirituality. I haven’t had a spiritual experience in a yoga class in years, although I used to in the early years of taking yoga classes. I can tell you why I had those experiences.
It’s because I believed the myth that postural yoga (the usual yoga class you’d take at a gym or yoga studio that focuses on stretching and strength-building poses) is a spiritual practice. Now, through reading, I hold the position, based on facts and research, that the postural yoga practiced today is not a spiritual or religious practice in and of itself. It’s just a way to make your body healthy. I learned this in a book titled “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice” by Mark Singleton. Singleton tells us that, through his research, he discovered that many of the poses yoga students practice with much reverence in yoga classes every day are nothing more than 100 year old gymnastic poses. True, the hundreds of yoga poses available were practiced and mastered by famous Indian yogis, T. Krishnamacharya, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S. Iyengar (the latter two being students of Krishnamacharya) but they practiced these poses mainly because they were taught as gymnastics in the British army. We’ll leave off the history element there but suffice it to say, trikonasana (triangle pose) is not 5,000 years old.
The thing to focus on when considering why you practice postural yoga and what you get out of it spiritually is how taking care of your body effects your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Many people go day to day suffering physical ailments and pains. This physical experience can create emotional, mental, and spiritual suffering. Beyond that, it can simply be so distracting to suffer physically, that one doesn’t even have the energy to think about the existential experience.
If the physical body is well, pain-free, and resistant to illness, the emotional, mental, and spiritual experience, the existential experience can develop and deepen, perhaps beyond the physical body. In my classes, I teach students to be aware of how their body feels in a pose, what their breathing sounds like, and how much is too much when working on more challenging poses. I don’t teach anything spiritual because I don’t want to and I don’t need to. When your body feels better and healthy, you can be a better, kinder, more patient person. My contribution to the world through teaching yoga is making people feel healthier, (hopefully) happier, and more in tune with their bodies so that they can have a better physical experience in the world. It’s not through aligning your chakras (but if you feel like that happened in my class, that’s okay too).