When you’re 3/4ths Irish, your middle name is “Erin”, and St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday, well, spending time with your very close (and quite huge) extended family just makes sense.
Leprechauns old and young and in-between gathered today to watch my cousin’s college baseball game. The ball player’s name? You guessed it…Patrick.
I was dragging a bit today, feeling tired and a little overwhelmed by all there was to try to get done in the weekend and lamenting that there weren’t enough hours to do it all. Yet outside of my head, it was a beautiful sunny day, green mustaches and Irish swag abounded, and our family chatted and crowded the bleachers. In spite of myself, I had to marvel at my luck ‘o the Irish to be a part of such a crazy, wonderful clan.
And speaking of being cheered up, this little bit of Irish Yoga humor never fails to make me chuckle. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
A is for Abs, naturally. A is also for “always”, as in, “Abs are always in a Forrest Yoga class.”
B is for Breath. Hands down, the most important part.
C is for Crotch, crotch, crotch. Yes, Forrest Yoga will say the word “crotch”. Yoga is about another C-word: connection. You connect to all parts of your body. That includes the crotch. So get over the shock of that word in a yoga class. Crotch, crotch, crotch.
D is for Deeper. You will go deeper into yourself and poses than you ever thought possible.
E is for Evolution. Not evolving is not an option in Forrest Yoga.
F is for Fierce Medicine. It’s what Ana delivers and it’s the title of her book. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time.
G is for gravity surfing. You’ll know why you do all those abs when you can start doing some awesome arm balancing action from one pose to another.
H is for Healing. It doesn’t matter if your injury is a strained hamstring or a broken heart; you can use Forrest Yoga in the healing process.
I is for Intensity. Because breakthroughs don’t come from lying around. It takes intensity to move through issues in the body.
J is for Juicy. ‘Nuff said.
K is for Kick-Ass sequences. One of the major ways Forrest Yoga is unique is in its sequence which is designed to strengthen, heal, and delight.
It’s been an exciting week in San Francisco with the Giants sweeping the World Series. San Francisco was a blob of orange and black on Wednesday as thousands gathered for the victory parade. Giants merchandise abounds. Bakeries carry Giants cupcakes. MUNI buses have “Go Giants” signs.
Clearly yoga needs to get in on the action too. Celebrate the World Series champs with these Giants-inspired poses:
1) The Pre-Practice Warm-Up
Emulate the Giants pre-game ritual! Before you roll out your yoga mat, gather with fellow yogis and surround your yoga instructor. Bop up and down, whoop, and throw sunflower seeds over each other.
2) Bat in a handstand homerun
Face towards the wall. Channel your inner Panda. Using the strength in your core, exhale and bat your leg up. Don’t worry if you have a little extra heft on you; it might just help you power your leg up. Aim for up and over the wall (but just on it will do for yoga). Repeat three times in the same class. Oh, and when you hit the handstand home run? You can look this happy too.
Lie on your belly and come up on the forearms. Stretch your right arm up as if you were about to catch fast-moving baseball. Use your left forearm to help you lift. Extend the left leg and bend your right knee and lift the foot. Keep a strong lift in leg and the arm. Gregor Blanco would be proud.
4) Don’t Stop Believin‘
Patiently listen to everyone say it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to meet a challenge in your life. Have them point out the odds against you. Deal with their skepticism. Then prove ’em wrong!
When I was in kindergarten, each student who behaved and did not have to sit in time out received a pretzel stick at the end of the day. Pretzel sticks were a popular snack at my house so I used a similar tactic to coerce my younger sisters into playing school with me. I’d bribe them with pretzel sticks to get them to complete their assigned “homework”.
Fast forward twenty or so years when I became a teacher of another kind: a yoga instructor. After finishing my initial teacher training, I landed my first real teaching gig. Needless to say I was petrified. Teaching a group of paying students was a far cry from the practice teaching I’d done in my training.
I confessed my nervousness to my youngest sister who had some great advice for me. “Megan, just pretended you are teaching school to us when we were little and promising us pretzel sticks.” I laughed, but wouldn’t you know, this trick really worked.
To this day, whenever I’m scared or apprehensive about a new or challenging teaching situation, I think about pretzel sticks. I can then connect back to the enthusiastic teacher I was in childhood, perfectly at ease with her students. Then I seek to bring the same confident, exuberant (though hopefully less bossy) manner into my yoga teaching.
What tricks do you have for calming yourself before teaching or speaking in front of a group?
My brother, Sean Keane, is a very funny guy (if you think I’m biased, just ask the SF Weekly). Today is Sean’s birthday, so it has me thinking about Sean and comedy. Building a career as a stand-up is a tough one. It takes no small amount of guts and hard work to show up at various settings where stand-up comedy takes place: laundromats; sketchy nightclubs; college auditoriums, and eventually on to the top local venues (in the bay area, these being the SF Punchline and Cobbs Comedy Club).
I have proudly watched Sean’s career move from many of the former to the latter venues and frequent out-of-town gigs. More than once, I have admired how Sean gets on stage again and again. When I first started teaching yoga, it was petrifying enough to be teaching a group of people. I could not imagine the pressure of standing on a stage and making people laugh.
It got me thinking about the parallels between stand-up comedy and teaching yoga. Both require public speaking, some advance preparation, and ability to improv and play to the energy of the crowd. Here is a point-by-point comparison of comedy and yoga, determining which one has the advantage for each aspect of the job:
Objective: Comedy: Keep people laughing Yoga: Keep people breathing Edge:Comedy (if you are Sean)
Average Set Time: Comedy: 10-45 minutes Yoga: 60-90 minutes Edge: Draw. If you are eating it on stage, you do not have long to win back the audience. On the other hand, you only have to sink for a brief time before the set is over. If you’re teaching a yoga class that is not going well, you have time to turn it around for the better. On the other hand, it might be a long class…
Training: Comedy: Endless open mics Yoga: Minimum 200-hour registered program Edge: Yoga. I can’t think of much scarier things than continually getting up on stage at open mics.
Audience-Enhancing Beverages: Comedy: alcohol Yoga: coconut water Edge: Comedy. Plus alcohol tastes much better than coconut water.
Physical Interactions with Crowd: Comedy: Aggressive heckling Yoga: Hands-on adjustments Edge: Yoga. Why is it some people do not realize what happens when one chooses to sit in the front row at a comedy show?
5-Minute Wrap-Up: Comedy: People in drunk, happy laughter Yoga: People in savasana Edge: Draw. Generally it’s easier to get people to laugh than it is to get them to relax. But if you’re Sean, the laugh part is not a problem.
When I practice at my home, my two cats are generally somewhere around. Since their days revolve around napping, eating, and more napping, they usually have some sort of reaction when yoga time begins. Their response to my practice is never what I expect, but can be generalized as follows:
1. Indifference Yawn. What is this that’s happening across the room. I’m confused, why on earth would someone do these strange moves? Most perplexing. Whatever. I can’t be troubled to move from my lovely sunny spot by the window to investigate any further.
2. Curiosity My goodness, what is this rubbery thing you have unrolled? I must go on it. No, not the edge of it; right in the middle of it. It’s playtime!
4. Mischievousness It’s almost that time. Any minute now she’ll go up into a headstand and there’s my chance. Maybe she won’t notice that I went up on the forbidden counter to eat the plant.
4. Prop Playfulness The drawstring of the mat bag, quick, attack it! Ooohh, a strap to bat around. Will this block move if I knock it with my paw? That yoga blanket is an outstanding location for a nap.
5. Prop Emulation She’s lying back like a corpse. This would be a great time to settle atop her stomach. Or maybe on her thigh that looks a bit tight. Sandbags ain’t got nothing on kitties!