Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My YogaWorks Week

This past weekend concluded my 7 Days of YogaWorks adventure, and I'm so sad to see it go!  It came to me with the most perfect timing imaginable - Karma Kids was closed to classes for the week and open for a teacher training, so my hours completely changed and, for the most part, opened up to allow me to take a class once a week.  YogaWorks, luckily for me, has several locations in the city and I explored 3 of them - Westside (near Central Park), Eastside (76th & 3rd), and Union Square(ish).  I mostly went to Union Square, since it was closest to Karma Kids - and the farmer's market! - but all the studios were gorgeous.

It was a different kind of yoga class than I'm used to, and that's always so refreshing.  YogaWorks has an Iyengar/Ashtanga base, as opposed to my usual exposure to Vinyasa.  Vinyasa means linking breath to movement, and it's an interesting style because there's so much freedom for the instructor to play.  One Vinyasa class could be completely different from the next.  In general, though, they tend to move a little more quickly and get a little more sweaty.

I didn't notice the Ashtanga quite so much in these classes - although that may be because my only experience with Ashtanga wasn't the most inspiring and it also kicked my behind.  I really noticed the Iyengar-Vinyasa mixture though.

Iyengar and Ashtanga are styles of yoga founded by BKS Iyengar and the late Patthabi Jois, respectively.  I could fill a million blog articles with the details, differences, philosophies, and intricacies of each, but I'll try to be brief.  Ashtanga teaches you a specific series of poses that you practice each and every time.  There are different levels of difficulty (primary series, secondary series, etc.), but the idea is you measure your advancement in practice because of the consistency - you're doing the same poses every time, so you can see how they change.  Iyengar is a much more gentle, much less intense practice that is completely focused on the alignment of the body.  Iyengar teachers are big fans of using props in class to help the body or demonstrate a certain aspect of a given pose.

So that's my 2 cent explanation - if any yogis reading this want to elaborate or correct something I got wrong, have at it!

What all of that explanation basically boils down to is that these classes were slower and more thoughtful in terms of alignment than classes I'm used to.  I took a class from a different teacher every day so I got to see an interesting array of personal teaching styles all within the same general umbrella of YogaWorks philosophy.  Some classes worked me harder than others; some, I didn't even break a sweat.  The sweat wasn't the point.  One class, we did triangle pose about 3-4 times on each side until we got the point.  This is a pose that I'd probably breeze through a couple times during a quick Vinyasa class and not teach too much about the alignment aside from the basics.  It was interesting to take a pose that I thought I knew inside and out, a pose I usually just breeze through on my way to the next, and really break it down.

Aside from the physical practice, I got a really invaluable little nugget of wisdom from a class with yoga teacher Chrissy Carter.  She was talking about worrying and the notion of "preparing for the worst" - something I very often (sometimes compulsively) do.


"When you prepare for the worst, your body experiences the worst."

That really resonated with me.  How many times have I worked up a worry in my brain and imagined all the terrible worst-case-scenarios, only to have everything turn out fine?  Or even if it doesn't turn out fine, it still turns out not to be worth all that mental - and physiological - anguish.  We all know the myriad of negative effects stress has on the body - why give ourselves anymore than absolutely necessary?


It was a really special experience taking a yoga class every single day.  It's a luxury I haven't had since I was going through teacher training in the fall of 2009.  I found myself more patient, more able to deal with stress, and more able to accept negative turns of events with a measure of grace.

I'm finishing up the week/month of April with daily writing as my sadhana, as it's been all month.  Marc has been a rock star at writing in his journal faithfully every day for almost the whole year, and as a formerly hard-core journaler (I wish that was a word), I was starting to get jealous!

On Sunday, May 1st, though, I'm starting a new sadhana, inspired by a local yoga studio, The Yoga Room.  They're offering a 21-Day Meditation Challenge for $55 that is as follows:

10 minutes of Sun Salutations
10 minutes of Meditation
5 minutes of Savasana
5 minutes of Journaling

I can't imagine keeping journaling down to 5 minutes, so we'll see how many of those sessions extend to 10, 15, and 30 minutes!  I'm excited to get started.  I'll be doing it at home, since I don't live close enough to The Yoga Room to get there in the wee early hours every day, and I feel comfortable doing it on my own.  If you live in Astoria and you're interested, though, you should definitely check out the studio and the challenge!

Enjoy the gorgeous spring weather, everyone!  Namaste :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

One year Blog-a-versary!

A year ago today, I was inspired to start this little ol' blog.  It's a little bizarre how hard it is for me to remember and imagine exactly what my life was like a year ago.  I was still working in my office job, just barely eeking my way into the world of being a yoga teacher, though quite desperate to get there.  Marc and I were essentially living together - in the sense that I spend 95% of my time at his apartment while still technically living a few blocks east - but hungry to actually take that next step together.

We're now happily living in Ditmars, and I'm no longer at that office job!

Since that first entry, I've become certified in:

Thai Yoga Massage (and will be able to perform Prenatal Thai Yoga massage as of this Sunday - finally!)
Kids Yoga
Prenatal Yoga

It feels like that list should be longer, because the amount I've learned in this year is INSANE.  When I started this blog, I definitely didn't imagine I'd be earning my livelihood teaching yoga to kids.  It was something that was of interest to me, but I didn't think it'd be in the near future.  When my dear Laura Frye couldn't stop gushing about what a great gig she had at Karma Kids, however, I decided to take their training and haven't looked back since.  My life has totally transformed for the better by making kids my primary clients.  I'm learning more every single day and I'm always hungry for more!

Prenatal yoga is something I've been interested in for awhile, but my word, is it daunting!  I devour the books I read on pregnancy as well as my manuals (for regular yoga and Thai Yoga Massage), but I've still got to get up the gumption to start turning my interest into action and really try to teach some classes.  I hope to get there by this time next year.

It's so unbelievably hard for me to believe that Thai Yoga Massage was not a part of my life this time last year.  It was on the horizon, and I had taken the brief introductory course, but I had no idea what an enriching, life-changing experience I was in for yet.  It's been a long haul getting certified, and it's been a challenge since receiving my certification to find clients.  My biggest challenge as a yoga teacher, in terms of the business end, is self promotion.  I'm not a natural salesperson and it's hard to convince myself to just get out there.  I'm hoping my collaboration with Karma Kids on a Prenatal Thai Yoga Massage offering will help open the door on that part of my life a little wider.  It's a really important practice for me and I love sharing it.

As for regular yoga - teaching in a studio or privately - it's been an up-and-down journey this year.  I've had some opportunities to teach locally and even had a steady class at The Matrix gym near my apartment, but it disappeared with a schedule overhaul, and subbing opportunities have been few and far between as of late.  I feel more confident than ever, but I sometimes still have the awkward self-doubt of a brand new yoga teacher.  This is 99% a result of comparing myself to other, more experienced teachers that I aspire to be like...which of course is not the way to grow and become confident!  I'm still learning not to compare myself with others or judge myself to harshly.

Which brings me to my personal yoga practice.  That has also been a rollercoaster, although since the beginning of 2011 it's gotten better.  I've had patches of losing my dedication to my sadhana, whatever it may be, but it's never too far from my mind.

This week in particular has been interesting.  Shari, my awesome boss at Karma Kids, gave me a little bookmark-coupon (I'm obsessed with bookmarks, so this is doubly fabulous) good for one week of free unlimited yoga at YogaWorks.  I'd never been to YogaWorks before, but I just took my fifth class this morning and I'm really loving it so far.  So that's what my personal practice is this week - seven straight days of practicing at new studios (they have several locations) with new teachers and seeing what happens.

It's also Earth Day today!  Despite the glum and chilly weather, the Farmer's Market in Union Square was all abuzz with Earth Day specials and demonstrations (natural egg dyeing!) and it was really fun to be a small part of that while I did some post-yoga grocery shopping this morning.


So get outside if you can, breathe in some fresh air (wherever you can find it!) and enjoy this Earth Day.  And also, thanks for reading my little ol' blog :)  See you next week!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Come Play Yoga!

I'm wildly distracted today as I sit down to write my weekly blog.  One of my bosses at Karma Kids Yoga just had her first baby yesterday!  It'll probably be several weeks before I get to see her again and meet her beautiful baby girl, but I'm still so antsy with excitement!

I've been wanting to write a blog about what I do at Karma Kids, and so today seems to be the perfect day to do that!

Even though I've been working at Karma Kids for 6 months now, I haven't written about it or children's yoga in general very much on my blog.  I've wanted to, but I just haven't known what to day.  A million and one adorable things happen every single day there, but I don't think I'll be writing a blog about the yoga adventures I take with the kids (even though yesterday we went on a dragon hunt in the forest, which was AWESOME!).  It doesn't always make sense outside of the magical studio!

I've mostly been working with the toddlers, and when I work at the desk, that's usually the age that I'm exposed to just because of the hours I work - I don't tend to work when classes for 7-9's, tweens, and teens take place.  I do want to get comfortable with the older ages, though, and so today I'm excited to start assisting an amazing teacher on a special yoga class.  It's called Everything Yoga, and each week we'll have a different theme - Butterfly Yoga, Group Poses, Circus Yoga, Yoga Games...every single trick up the Karma Kids sleeve will be done in this class for kids ages 5-9 at Friends Seminary just east of Union Square.  It'll be great for me to work with Kelly, one of the senior teachers, and to learn to deal with a wider age range - the kids range from 5 years old to 9 years old, which I imagine will present unique challenges!

I have found such unbelievable joy and discovered such passion for teaching kids.  Aside from being incredibly silly and fun, it's so rewarding to see positive changes in kids.  It's hard to say this without being cliche or corny, but kids are our future.  It's so gratifying to be able to take part in the development of children's lives, even if it's a small part.  There's nothing in the world like being on the receiving end of a wildly enthusiastic hug from a 5-year-old, or hearing a 4-year-old student say, "I love you!," or getting concerned pets on your 'boo-boo' from toddlers who want to help make you feel better.

There's going to be an article about the benefits of yoga for kids in the New York Times at some point (not sure when - they've been interviewing some of the KKY staff), and there has already been an article put out by the Wall Street Journal, along with a video featuring my awesome workplace, boss, and my beautiful friend Laura teaching a class.

Read the article and definitely watch the video - the kids are so funny!  You can find both here - the video is to the left.

While you're at it, check out our website - http://www.karmakidsyoga.com - and recommend us to anyone you know with kids or who is pregnant in the NYC area!

In other non-kid news, I'm about to start reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in the spirit of my Conscious Kitchen, Omnivore's Dilemma, books-about-food reading streak!  I loved Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and am so excited to read this book.  Who knows, it could be my next Book Report...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Report: The Conscious Kitchen

Our everyday food choices have the capacity to change the world.

As the seasons (slowly) change, I always have a few little spring rituals I enjoy.  One is that it becomes Joni Mitchell season in my iPod and my Pandora.  The ways some people are seasonal eaters, I am a seasonal music fan.  Late summer is Indigo Girls, fall is Tegan and Sara...though anytime is Bob Dylan time.  Another, one that I'm sure I share with most, is spring cleaning.

The Conscious Kitchen fits in beautifully with exactly the kind of spring cleaning I'd like to do.  My literal spring cleaning of my apartment was pretty much accomplished over the winter (meaning we finished projects we'd originally laid out on the to-do list back when we moved in - in August!), and I'm in the market for a different kind of spring cleaning.

Readers of my blog might recall that last we spoke, I was going on a trial gluten-free diet.  The trial ended with our trip to California (there was no way I was going to make Marc's elderly grandparents, who I was meeting for the very first time, cater to a challenging diet), and the result was - gluten and I can still be friends.  Hooray!

Still, the diet was a huge lifestyle adjustment.  I've made changes to my diet before, but never been restrictive.  This particular trial demanded a tremendous deal of attention and conscientiousness about what was in what I was buying and made me notice how I'd strayed a bit from my old friends, fruits and vegetables.

Coming off the gluten-free diet and going back to my restriction-free way of eating (not to mention rereading The Omnivore's Dilemma), I still found myself craving some healthy inspiration.  Enter my wonderful friend Laura and her wholehearted recommendation of the subject of the book report: The Conscious Kitchen by Alexandra Zissu.

This book is not a diet book.  It's a lot more about taking an integrated approach to caring for the health of the environment, the health of local farming economies, and each individual's health with the choices we make every day in our kitchens.  She makes the recommendations you might predict a book like this would make - she's very much an organic and local food fan - but she branches beyond food into the things we cook on, store our food on and in, the appliances we use to cook, and how we clean our kitchens.  She covers waste and extolls the benefits of composting.  When it comes to anything and everything to do with the kitchen, this book has plenty to say and plenty of unpleasant truths to reveal.

Zissu packs this very practical guide with websites to go to for further information on topics she touches on (one good site of many is WhatsOnMyFood.org - consumer-friendly information on pesticide use in conventional - non-organic - produce and other foods) and endless resources on how you can be the most informed consumer you can possibly be.  Each page has individual small tips alongside the larger narrative, and each chapter ends with a summary of what she's just written about and recommended for the healthiest, greenest possible choices.  She's a very clear writer, and effortlessly balances fact, professional opinion, personal opinion, and intelligent analysis within each and every page.

The Conscious Kitchen is:

"...my attempt to provide any eco-interested eater - from the newbie just going to her first farmer's market to the diehard looking for extra tips - with the education needed to make the best decisions in any venue, from convenience store to farmer's market.  The following pages are a road map for how to locate and make sense of the avalanche of "green" choices in the marketplace and how to make choosing the best possible items less work, not more."

I believe Zissu achieves her goal.  While I highly, highly recommend this book to every single person who can get their hands on it, I will warn you (and Zissu does too) that it can seem very overwhelming.  You learn a lot of disturbing facts about the food industry, the waste and pollution problems in the country, and how something as ubiquitous as plastic is environmentally devastating to produce.  It made me want to throw out 95% of what was in my kitchen and pantry and start all over.

It's important to keep in mind that this book is a comprehensive guide by someone who has made this her life's work and passion.  It seems like we couldn't possibly follow every piece of advice, and she doesn't intend for everyone too.  The book simply raises awareness, and it really should be used as a way to make future decisions easier rather than agonizing over past decisions or striving for perfection (which of course, does not exist).

As I've said, this is an important book for everyone, but as a yogi, this book has a very deep significance for me.  Yoga means "union," and this book is nothing if not a way to show how deeply united and interconnected every single choice we make is to other people, animals, and our irreplaceable planet.  We're always taught to be conscious and mindful when it comes to ourselves in our personal yoga practice.  As important as that is, it's just as important to take our own personal consciousness and impact the world with it.  When you spend your money on a product, you are essentially voting with your dollars.  By being mindful with what we eat, the products we buy, and how we dispose of waste, we truly can make changes in our world.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A drive by entry

Hello and HAPPY APRIL!  I feel like shouting from the rooftops with joy that March madness is over and April can start warming us up.  (Although it does seem to be taking its time so far...)

As you may have noticed, I broke my streak of one-blog-a-week last week, which really bums me out.  Marc and I went on vacation to California last week to visit his grandparents, old family friends, and old college friends and had an AMAZING time.  My blogging day was meant to be Monday, but it turned out to be frantic last minute running to the post office and packing and then rushing to JFK.  Alas.

But all you can do when you feel like you've broken a streak or fallen off a wagon is to get right back on and not waste any time dwelling or regretting, so I'm back in the nick of time to make sure I only missed one week and not two!

However - this is a quickie (or drive-by.  I couldn't decide between the two).

I have a bigger entry planned for this coming week - a combined gluten update and book report on an amazing book I'm reading right now which I highly recommend: The Conscious Kitchen by Alexandra Zissu.

Today, though, I'd like to redirect you to another blog.  My beautiful, inspiring, wonderful, and joyfully silly friend Laura Frye has just published her first entry on One Girl, One Earth

Laura is the reason I'm a Karma Kids Yoga teacher and desk assistant, and for that I will always be in her debt.  Aside from teaching children and acting, one of Laura's greatest passions is the environment.  She's starting a blog to share her attempts at "living green" one paycheck at a time.

I hope you check her out and make her feel welcome to the blogverse!

Happy Saturday night!