I Just Got in From the Yoga Journal SF Conference…

…and boy are my arms abs tired!
Whew! For the past three days, I’ve been assisting my teacher, Ana Forrest at the Yoga Journal Conference San Francisco. This was the second time I’ve gotten the opportunity to assist Ana (my first time assisting was this past July). Right now my brain is in the process of taking in the whole experience: learning new poses and assists, bonding with my fellow assistants, and the connections I made with students and friends, and of course, getting more pearls of wisdom from Ana. As my brain is also fuzzy from days of getting up before 4am for the conference, look for a more coherent recap of my amazing weekend soon.

Oh, and GO NINERS!

fyyj

Here I am with my two amazing friends and Forrest Yogis, Abbie and Sandy

Back to the Blog

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG

NEW WORK AND HOLIDAYS MAKES BEAUTY REPORT A DULL BLOG


But I’m back to blogging! There’s been a lot of changes for me in the past few months.

To back up a bit, a little over a year ago, I left a full-time job as an online community manager. I wanted to focus on teaching yoga, but was fairly sure yoga teaching wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do career-wise.

It’s been a great experience as far as deepening my teaching and growing a base of amazing students. Still, I also missed doing the online community work that I used to do and quickly discovered that I like having the structure and regularity that comes with a full-time, salaried job.

I was in the middle of the interviewing for a couple of non-yoga jobs when my husband and I left on Thanksgiving for a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal. There’s much more to be said about this fabulous vacation, but one wonderful part about it was that we were offline for the most part, with no cell access nor internet access (well, except for 75-cents-a-minute for what access might be there in the middle of the ocean). Unplugging is important to do from time to time.  But I digress.

I had an second interview mid-trip on one of the days we were in port. When our boat docked in Floria early on a Friday morning and I had internet access again, I came online to a job offer and was on a plane to Portland for training the next week. So it was quite the whirlwind. The universe can have a wonderful sense of humor when it comes to bringing you change.

Thus far, I am loving the work. I work for a nonprofit organization I’ve long admired and respected. I’m back working with a similar group of constituents and have been blown away by the warm welcome I’ve had from many people I know in this network. Best of all, I get to work remotely and have some flexibility with my hours which means I’m able to keep teaching away.

Right now, I’m still teaching a lot with a number of privates and group classes a week, so it’s busy and I’m juggling a bit to get into a routine with it all. That said, I’m loving it. Perhaps what I love most of all is teaching. I’ve re-discovered the joy teaching brings me. Now that it’s not the only thing I’m doing, I find myself excited again about coming up with juicy sequencing and exploring new assists. It feels like the best of both careers.

It took me a long time to get to writing this blog post. To be honest, I’ve been scared to talk about my new job and situation because I’m afraid: “What if it doesn’t work out? What if I blog about being happy about things are coming together so well and it all goes to hell?”

Ironically enough, as much as my fear makes me want to hide and not make a big deal out of things, I have two careers that are very public and require that I put myself out there, be it online or in front of a class of people. I can’t be hiding behind a curtain waiting for the other shoe to drop. What is a blog for if I can’t also be honest and put my truth out in words?

There’s a lot of stories out there about yoga teachers finding their path to teaching from another job. It may seem odd to find one’s path by taking a step back away from teaching, but that’s the way I’m finding my way and weaving my two careers together.

AND…I’m happy to be back to blogging and bringing in the beauty reports to come in 2013!

Tip Tuesday: Help! I Need a Yoga Sequence

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

Ever intend to practice yoga at home, but get stuck because you don’t know what poses to do? I’ve certainly been there. More often than not, when my home practice is, er, lacking, it’s because I can’t seem to decide what class sequence to do. I’ve never been one of those people who does well with total “free-form”–that is, doing any pose that feels good to do next. Instead, it helps me to have a class sequence outlined in the beginning. I don’t have to stick with it completely, but it gives me a place to start.

If you’re a yoga teacher, you might sometimes experience being uninspired about what to teach on a given day. Occasionally I feel undecided about what to teach (Backbends or inversions? Twists? What kind of sequences?). Sometimes I just feel like I want to mix up my sequencing more for some variety.

To help myself (and hopefully you too!), I created an online notebook of yoga sequences. Some of these are classes that I’ve created for my classes. Others are sequences inspired by another yoga class I’ve taken with my own spin on it. There’s also several classes directly from workshops or classes I’ve taken with Ana (as best I’ve been able to remember afterwards). For each class, I’ve noted the theme, physical focus, and approximate length and level.  [Note: these are mainly Forrest Yoga sequences, but I note when there are non-Forrest yoga classes]


My hope is that these can help you on those days where you’re drawing a big question mark on the practice or you just need a few ideas to get you going on a class sequence. These can provide a place to start, riff from, and experiment with as you see fit. It’s helped me to refer to spark some ideas or to just give myself a direction for the practice on any given day. You can find the link at the right side of the blog.

The classes also live in Google Docs and are open to anyone to add class plans to, so feel free to add yours to the mix!

Yoga Journal San Diego Day 1: Journey to the Core Forrest Yoga Intensive

I wake up with a start.

“Oh no!,” I yell.

My husband jerks awake. “What’s wrong?”

“Do you realize what time it is?,” I scream. By now the whole hotel was awake. “IT’S 8:30 AND I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AT THE CONFERENCE AT 5:30! THE SESSION STARTS IN HALF AN HOUR.”

“But Megan, it’s Thursday. The conference is on Friday.”

Luckily that was my nervous Wednesday night dream and not the real beginning of my conference experience. I’m happy to report that I was not late nor did I wake up the good people staying at the Sheraton San Diego. I arrived at the conference for my 5:30 AM practice with Ana Forrest and the other assistant, Brian Campbell, one of the Forrest Yoga Guardian teachers from Los Angeles.

The purpose of the early morning practice session is for us to practice one of the workshop sequences Ana is teaching during the day. It gives us all a chance to have the class in our body and get a sense of what we’ll be assisting with (and thinking ahead to props the students might need, modifications for beginners, etc.). It’s also an opportunity for Ana to tweak the class plan as needed.

Friday’s workshop was an all-day intensive, “Journey to the Core”, that consisted of a long morning session and an afternoon session after a lunch break. The fun part of this format was that we had mostly the same students for both sessions and it was a smaller group than the shorter conference sessions. That meant we were able to get around to everyone and give people a lot more hands-on attention.

The morning workshop went deep into backbends with all varieties of lunges and deep core work. Backbends are rough. In Ana’s classes, you get in deep with intense poses that demand a lot of internal focus.  As such, it was hard at first for me to gauge how students were responding to my assists. However, I could see the impact the poses were having. Looking around you could visibly see people releasing all kinds of tension and emotions.

In the afternoon, the workshop delved into the hips. Folks were definitely feeling the earlier backbend class, but going upside down in downward dog at the wall and handstands brightened everyone right up.

I felt so incredibly proud of everyone. They all worked so hard in the practices. It felt so gratifying to be a part of their inward journey (or as one student put it, “an odyssey”) as a guide to help steady them along their path. One woman looked as if a lightbulb got turned on internally and she walked out of there radiating a new sparkle.

People were so receptive and grateful. So many students came up and thanked me afterwards and several even commented on how much they enjoyed my assists. My aforementioned gratification overflowed.

After the workshop, San Diego sunshine and water called out, so Ana suggested a walk out by the water. As we walked, it became apparent to me how much Ana really walks (pun intended) the talk. In Forrest Yoga, you are constantly redirecting your attention to feeling and paying attention to what is happening. On our walk, Ana often pointed out interesting things, be it the trees with branches like curling snakes or paper-like bark or the boat skeleton being erected near the marina.

I realized how often I blow right by little details of life sometimes because I am too wrapped up in thinking and not being focused on the here and now. The whole day for me was a good lesson in remembering that I want to be truly present in my life for all those cool moments: a student releasing tension, an amazing tree that makes you want to climb it, and taking in this challenging new assisting experience.

 

Yoga Journal San Diego Here I Come

Getting ready to head to Yoga Journal San Diego where I’ll be assisting Ana Forrest for her workshops. The up-side of the long car ride down there is that I don’t have to worry about packing light! There’s a lot of gear when there’s sweaty yoga going on!

The big things on my packing list:

  • 4 pairs tie-dyed yoga pants, plus 2 other pairs of yoga pants
  • Bright yoga tops
  • Mat
  • Strap
  • Block
  • Rolled-up mat
  • Large water bottle
  • Laptop (for blogging the event!)
  • Deodorant
  • Notebook & pen
  • Forrest Yoga Teacher Training Manual for reference
  • Awesome hubby willing to drive down with me AND shuttle me to conference in the wee hours. That’s love for ‘ya.

Stay tuned for more updates from San Diego!

6 Ideas for the Yoga Barbie Line

It had to happen. Now that there’s Yoga Teacher Barbie, why should Mattel stop there? I have all kinds of suggestions for the next dolls they can add to a whole line of Yoga Barbie dolls.

1. Forrest Yoga Barbie: Barbie does endless abs dressed in a bright top, tie-dyed pants, and wrist supports. Comes with a rolled-up mat.

2. Trendy Yogi: Clad in Lululemon pants, wick-away, bamboo top with matching mat bag. And of course, she’s got her coconut water.

3. San Francisco Skipper: This urban girl on the go has all the gear she needs for yoga in her Whole Foods cloth tote. Includes flip-flops, iPhone, and lower back tattoo.

4. Tight-Hamstring Ken: He’s got the outfit and the props to help his buff, but inflexible bod: athletic shorts, tank top, and realistic beads of sweat. Comes with multiple blocks, strap, and blanket.

5. Shakti Power Barbie: She’s got her ganesha shirt, harem pants, mala beads, and dreadlocks. Singing bowls trance dance CD sold separately.

6. Bikram Barbie: Those skimpy shorts and bra top of hers are hot for hot yoga. Comes with multiple towels. Rolls royce not included.

Do you have other ideas for the Yoga Barbie line?

Tip Tuesday: 5 Ways to Make Yoga Affordable

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

Yoga can be pricey. Yes, yoga teachers need to get paid and studios need to make enough to keep their doors open. Still, with the average price for a yoga class getting even higher, it can be hard for many people to afford going to yoga on a regular basis. Here are a few ways to get your yoga on without breaking the bank:

1. Look for deals Many studios offer a discount for first time students, such a a reduced rate for the first few classes or on unlimited classes for a month or a “buy one class, get the second free.” You can also take advantage of promotions through sites like Groupon, Living Social, or Yelp for discounted classes. This is also a good way to try out different studios and styles of yoga to see what works for you.

2. Go to the gym If you’re already paying for a gym membership, most gyms have yoga classes that are free to members. Don’t think that just because it is a gym that the yoga classes are inferior to ones you’ll find in a yoga studio. There are some exceptional teachers at gyms (many of whom also teach at yoga studios). In fact, it was at a gym class that I first started going to yoga regularly with an instructor who inspired me to become a yoga teacher.

3. Find donation classes Check around for any donation-based, pay-what-you-can yoga classes in the community, be they at a yoga studio, park, church, etc. Yoga studios often offer a lower-priced community class or two on their schedules.

4. Try a community center or community college class Frequently these places offer yoga classes that are often less expensive. The hidden bonus is you register for the class series, which can help keep you consistent with a regular teacher and class time.

5. Make it part of your budget Yes, yoga is expensive, but examine the cost in relation to other things you spend money on that are of value to you. Do you spend money on getting a hairstyle, going out to dinner/drinks, getting your nails done, or going to a ball game? Look at what yoga adds to your life and if the value is worth it to you, find how you can work it into your budget, be it setting aside a certain amount for yoga or by cutting back on some other activity.

How do you find ways to make yoga affordable for you?

Image credit: 401(K) 2012

I’m assisting Ana Forrest at the Yoga Journal conference

Photo credit: Forrest Yoga

Wow. I just found out that I will be assisting Ana Forrest at the upcoming Yoga Journal conference in San Diego.

Holy crap.

Ana is my main yoga teacher and phenomenally skilled teacher and healer. To be a part of the energy she weaves in her workshops is an amazing experience as a student and I am beyond excited to take part this time as an assistant.

Ana is also hardcore. I’m not quite sure when she sleeps or if she ever gets tired. Rare is the week that she is not traveling somewhere conducting workshops or teacher trainings. and trust me, both of these are intense.

So what business does a person like me have assisting her? Can I really do this? Will I be able to do a good job assisting students–even in an all-day intensive? Despite my excitement, these are the kinds of questions running through my head.

It occurred to me today that I actually have a choice about being nervous. Ok, maybe not about whether I feel nervous, but what I do with that feeling. I can be nervous and spin into self-doubt. Or I can acknowledge, “Yup, I’m scared and nervous” and choose differently. What if I tapped into my nervous energy and directed it towards dedicating myself to being 100% present to the best of my ability to the students, Ana, and the assistant team? What if I decided to believe, or at least act as if, I can be a great assistant? And what if, just maybe, I exceeded what I thought were the limitations of what I could accomplish?

 

 

Pretzel Sticks for Public Speaking

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?

Penguin Yoga!

Penguin Yoga.

Yup, it was inevitable that a penguin nut like me would do a penguin theme one of these days with my kids yoga class. I taught this theme to a few different classes this week and thought I would share some of my class ideas.


Walk like penguins! Waddle around with webbed feet on your heels and flap your flippers. Or, as one child pointed out to me, penguins have to move their feet mostly together, so you can hop around with feet together or try to walk this way, inching the feet forward.

When penguins are excited to see each other, they flap their flippers and let out a big squawk. Kids can take a deep inhale and exhale out a big squawk when they encounter other penguin friends.

Penguins build nests and when they lay eggs they keep them warm by holding them on their feet so their feathers can warm them. You can practice balancing a small ball on the feet while staying very still in a squatted position.

Penguins sometimes have rocks to waddle around. Several children can be rocks by coming into mouse pose with a little bit of space between each child. Have several others be the penguins and waddle around the rocks. Then switch so penguins become rocks and rocks become penguins.

Have children be the frozen icicles in Antarctica by bringing hands together overhead, interlacing the hands and reaching pointer fingers up. Become a jagged iceberg by leaning from one side to another. Imagine the sun coming out and slowly melting the ice into a puddle while kids slowly lower to a squat, then all the way down on the mat. You can also make a big iceberg with a partner by facing each other with hands together and making an arch like the tip of an iceberg.

There’s a ton of penguin kids books out there, but the one I used, Flip and Flop by Dawn Apperley, is a great choice. We did a number of penguin activities along with the book.

Just like the Flip and Flop, we played “Boomba” where on the count of three everyone jumped and yelled, “Boomba”, then rolled down like a ball onto the back and then all the way back up. For an added challenge, we tried a “no hands” Boomba.

Another game the penguins play is sliding down the ice. Everyone made a slide (purvottanasana, which looks like a reverse plank pose). I went around with the little penguin in the picture above (who is on the round side) and rolled the penguin down each child’s “slide”.

And of course, penguins go swimming! Stand at the back of the mat to get ready to dive in. Reach flippers up, then slide all the way down through a forward bend and onto the belly. Swim by lifting up and bringing flippers back. Kids will get creative, maybe wiggling forward as they swim or bringing the arms out the side and then bringing them forward and back to steer themselves along. Come out of the water by pressing up into the hands and walking or hopping the feet forward to the front of the mat and stand on land again.

For older kids, you might try the book The Emperor Penguin’s New Clothes by Janet Perlman, which tells the classic story of the emperor’s new clothes only with penguin characters. I haven’t had a chance to try this one out yet on a class, but it strikes me as a good one for exploring the themes of the story and how this relates to yoga (speaking the truth, humility, danger of putting someone up on a pedestal, etc.).

More penguin pose ideas? Do share them here.

Happy waddling!