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Five Signs You’re in a Terrible Yoga Class (and what you can do about it)

June 11, 2014

The man next to me sounded through the whole class like he was receiving an extremely painful blow job. And he had the faces to match. I know because I looked.

OhFaceBut no, that wasn’t what made this class one of the worst I’ve been to in a long time. I can deal with Uber Ujayis (loud, dramatic breathers), Smelly Students (enough said) and Rogue Rebel Rousers (doing handstands when the rest of the class is in Child’s Pose). Other students don’t bother me, but bad teachers, they inspire me to jump right on my blog and spread the good word of good v. bad yoga. Yes, there is such a thing. And you should be armed in order to protect yourself from making sweeping yoga generalizations and swearing it off altogether.

If you’re in a class and you see some of these things going on, you may want to consider whether you should

  • leave in the middle of class (yes, it’s ok – but don’t be disruptive)
  • you should never come back (find another class that fits the bill)
  • you should make the best of it and decide later whether to voice your concerns to the studio manager (not to the teacher)

So here are the Top Five Signs You’re in a Terrible Yoga Class:

1. The teacher hasn’t said anything but the words “Inhale”, “Exhale” and “<name-of-pose>”.

It might sound something like this, “Inhale Warrior I, Exhale Warrior II, Inhale plank, Exhale Chatarunga, Inhale Up, Exhale Down Dog, Inhale Plank, Exhale Chaturunga….” and goes on like this for at least 45 minutes. This is NOT OKAY. Barking out names of poses isn’t teaching, it’s calling out names of poses. Alright so you love to do vinyasa flow yoga which means you like to MOVE but if your teacher can’t incorporate any ALIGNMENT, ADJUSTMENTS, VARIATIONS, MODIFICATIONS, ACTION CUES or ENERGY CUES into her flow sequence, you’re not going to learn squat. And you’re almost sure to get injured. Eventually.

2. You didn’t hear her call anyone’s name, speak with anyone, touch anyone or help anyone individually.

BadTeacherThis woman is a yoga robot. She’s not experienced or trained in the art of teaching yoga (yet) and YES it is an art that takes years of practice, but you don’t have to be her guinea pig. If you don’t see her connecting with any individuals during class on any level, it means she doesn’t know them and she hasn’t figured out how to (yet). And one of the most special and meaningful things about yoga practice is the relationship between student and teacher. Good teachers know their students. Find one who wants to know YOU.

3. You feel panicked.

Yoga is not boot-camp. It’s not designed for cardiovascular training nor is it meant to activate your fight-or-flight response. If you feel panicky or agitated because either you are hyperventilating, your heart is about to explode out of your chest, you feel like you’re going to pass out or you’re just so damn frustrated, you are probably in a really Terrible Yoga Class. Consider also that you’ve accidentally wandered into a “Prana Vinyasa Flow Level 3 Superstar” class after “trying yoga once on vacation” but if you’re pretty sure it’s open level or beginners then we have a problem. Your teacher is moving way too fast and she’s not noticing that you’re having a panic attack. Refer back to #2.

 4. You can’t stop thinking how shitty this yoga class is.

This is a really important one. I am plagued with it on the rare occasions when I do stumble into a Terrible Yoga Class. It happens less and less now because I’ve become more and more experienced (read, jaded) about researching and finding great teachers in Washington, DC. If you can’t turn your thoughts away from how awful your experience is and turn your focus inwards instead to get through the remainder of class, then it is time to quietly pick up your things and leave. Sure, we can take this opportunity to “practice compassion” and “do what’s right for us” but there is a limit and all-in-all, as a teacher, what I want for my students is to feel better on their way out than they did on their way in. If that’s not going to happen, practice letting go and get the heck outta there.

5. Your body aches, a lot.

You came to yoga because your body ached already so why should it ache more while you’re practicing? Because your mind has entered a state of total discontent and conflict and you’re feeling it viscerally. If you can’t mute the teacher, do your own thing, go at your own pace (and do this without causing a great disruption to those around you) then it’s time to leave. Remember the exceptions – did you just run a marathon, break a bone or give birth? You may have other reasons why it’s not the right time for you to be taking this type of yoga right now.

Why am I talking about all of this?
One, I just took a horrible class. And two, it’s important to remember that yoga classes are like music. Just like you’re drawn to certain genres and artists, you’ll be drawn to certain styles and teachers. And yes there is that much variety out there when it comes to yoga.

So DONT GIVE UP! Keep on looking. And if you need help then you know where to reach me.

Yoga Philosophy in 2-minutes or less: What is Ahimsa?

April 14, 2014

patanjali_statueWhere did yoga come from? A really long time ago (400 CE-ish) a man named Patanjali wrote some texts (The Yoga Sutras) which systemized the practice of yoga (even though it had already been in practice for many, many years).

The Yoga Sutras are divided into 4 books or “padas” in Sanskrit. In the “Sadhana Pada” (the chapter about the actual practice) he outlined the Eight Limbs of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga – not to be confused with the style Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga).

These limbs, or steps are taken in order to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga which is Samadhi or “divine union with the self”. In more simpler terms, yoga is a “mind-body-spirit system for achieving self-awareness.” (Zoom in on The Yoga Poster for more details.)

OK, so this guy wrote some books and they outline how to live your life. Unsurprisingly enough, the eight limbs of yoga begin with 10 ethical principles to live by. You might think of them like the 10 commandments of yoga.

8limbsofyoga

As you can see, the first yama is Ahimsa. Ahhhh, Ahimsa. This is the practice of non-violence or non-harming towards all beings (ourselves included). How can you practice Ahimsa in yoga class so that you can take those practices beyond the mat and into life? Here are a few points for reflection:

  • Compassion – towards your body’s strengths and limitations on any particular day. Can you practice within your “intelligence edge” and make wise choices about modifications and variations of the practice so they fit your needs that day?
  • Non-Judgement – of yourselves and others. Rather than “my downward dog sucks” or “her downward dog sucks” can you gently stay connected to the present moment and how the pose FEELS rather than how you think it LOOKS?
  • Non-Comparison – to you 10 years ago, to who you want to be or to someone else on the other side of the room. Can you let go of how you used to do it, how you think you should be doing it or how she’s doing it compared to you and instead opt once again to gently stay connected to how it feels right now?

What other ways can you bring ahimsa into your yoga practice?
Where else in your life can you see ahimsa being valuable?

 

9 Common Reactions to Your First Yoga Class

April 7, 2014

Congrats! You just finished your first yoga class. But…

1. Your wrists hurt.

wristpainpreviewTruth be told, yoga is a pretty “wristy” practice, meaning, you spend a lot of time supporting your body weight with your hands on the floor in poses like table, plank and downward facing dog. In the beginning this can be rough. Over time you’ll quickly develop the strength and flexibility in your wrists and forearms and forget it ever bothered you. Good form also helps, check out this infographic about how to avoid wrist pain in yoga.

2. You felt totally lost.

Certain styles of yoga may move a bit quickly, and if you’re not a professional ballroom dancer, a Zumba-queen or haven’t yet developed general body awareness (realizing where your body is in space) then you might feel a little lost in the beginning. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t matter. Yoga isn’t a performance, it’s a practice. It’s ok to be lost because you’re going to reap some serious benefits anyway and over time when your teacher says “and now vinyasa” you’ll know exactly what she means. Just keep going.

3. You didn’t understand how downward facing dog would ever be possible.

Extended Puppy PoseHow the heck did everyone else hold that pose for ten minutes like it was nothing? They practiced it. Over and over and over again. If you’re not a gymnast, diver, or dancer you’ll see that Downdog asks things of your body you’re not used to giving. Eventually you’ll cultivate more strength and flexibility and in the meantime you might try Extended Puppy Pose until you feel strong enough to hold Downward Facing Dog.

4. You weren’t sure what was going on at the end.

savsana groupEveryone else was lying on the floor like it was adult naptime and you stared at the ceiling wondering what to do. This is called “savasana” (sha-VAH-sah-nah) or corpse pose and is the last pose in pretty much every yoga class on the planet. All you need to do is lie still, relax your whole body and let the pose do the work for you. Trust me.

 

5. You hated it.

Most awful thing you’ve ever done. Your knee hurt, the old injury from your shoulder flared up and you felt like an idiot because you couldn’t do anything the instructor said. Fear not! There are so many styles of yoga out there and so many instructors that saying you hate yoga is like saying you hate shirts. It’s always possible to find one that fits just right for your personality and sense of style. Just. Keep. Searching.
PS: Stay tuned for an upcoming post “Yoga: a Style Guide.”

6. You loved it.

Yup. You’ve never felt so light, so relaxed, so peaceful and centered after a class. You’re a lucky duck. Sounds like you had a great instructor, a style that works for you and it took to you quickly. High fives!

7. You felt things in your body you’ve never felt before (during and the days after).

anatomyYoga works muscles in a totally different way than most other forms of physical exercise so it’s possible you awakened muscles in your body that have been lying dormant for a while (or ever.) Enjoy it. Being sore and achy in areas of your body means you’re getting stronger and you’re connecting more deeply with yourself (this is a good thing!)

8. You fell asleep.

It happens! Even to people who’ve been doing yoga for decades. Most often during savasana (see #4). Don’t fret, if you dozed off for a minute or so, you probably needed it. When you wake up, don’t be alarmed, just take your time to meet back up with the rest of the class.

9. You couldn’t sit still and you were super bored.

Ah, the ants-in-your-pants types. If it’s hard to sit still it’s probably because your mind is always racing. Guess what? Everyone’s is! Yoga helps us to slow down the monkey mind and feel centered but that may take some time. Fear not! Look for a style that’s more athletic like Power Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga and over time you’ll learn how to focus your mind by connecting with your movements.

Yoga Philosophy in 2-minutes: Yamas and Niyamas (image)

March 31, 2014

YamasNiyamas

 

Can you believe that Yoga has its own “Ten Commandments”?  These 10 ethical principles make up the first two limbs, or practices, of yoga. There are eight limbs total and while most classes focus on the third and fourth limbs (poses and breathing) it’s important to be aware of the first two. Here’s a peek:

Yamas (“Restraints”):

  • Ahimsa – non-violence
  • Satya – truth
  • Asteya – non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya – sexual fidelity
  • Aparigraha – non-possesiveness

Niyamas (“Observances”):

  • Saucha – purity
  • Santosha – contentment
  • Tapas – austerity
  • Svadyaya – self-study
  • Ishvaripranidana – divine connection

See the rest of the yoga poster and get your own (because it looks cool-as-shit up on the wall).

The Worst Yoga Class I’ve Ever Taught

March 17, 2014

A few weeks ago I taught the absolute saddest yoga class ever. I walked out after and thought “what the hell happened there?” Did anyone injure themselves? No. Did someone throw a yoga block at me mid-class in protest of ordinary sequencing? No. Did the entire class revolt and start throwing sandbags at each other? No. But I have a pretty regular recurring nightmare about this. (True story.)

No one did anything offensive. I didn’t mess up my class. In fact, I have to guess those students probably had a very restorative yogic experience. It was only a couple days later that I figured out and confirmed why I felt it was the worst class I’d ever taught…it was on a Thursday Night.

Thursday nights are a fantastic night to go to yoga. By Thursday you are likely so wiped out from your work week and so desperate for the weekend that all that deep breathing, posturing and rest will give you much needed energy for Friday and the weekend.

For me, it was awful. Everyone was so sad and wiped out. All in all, Thursday nights are great for students (and horrible experiences for teachers). I’ll never teach Thursdays again! (OK, that’s probably not true.)

With my career transformation course, “I’m Just Not Meant For This!” coming up soon (deadline is this Friday March 21!), I thought I’d dole out a few tips on how to keep your energy going when your job sucks it out of you during the week. This was inspired by the worst yoga class I’ve ever taught.

Here are a couple of quick one-minute tips. You can catch the rest on Facebook as they come out over the next couple weeks.

“I’m Just Not Meant for This!” begins March 30th

February 27, 2014

I’m Just Not Meant For This!
A Course in Mindfully Navigating Yourself Into a New Career
(While Making the Best of One You Have)

yoga2notextcropAnnouncing my new course for current-job-haters/dream-job-seekers. It’s about getting you into a more satisfying, fulfilling line of work. And if you’re like me, that’s super important to you. You won’t settle for just anything.

If you’re tired of dreading work, searching for a new job and having no time or energy for things you love, this class is for you. I left my seven year career as a computer programmer to become a wellness coach and yoga instructor.  I’ll share all my dirty secrets about how it happened. (Even the ones I will never, ever go public about.)

Did you read this other quick two-minute post about the course? Check it out and then read the FAQ below for more details.

Q: What will we be learning?

This 12-week course will be split into two parts.
Part 1. Making the Best of My Current Job – mindfulness in life and at work.
Part 2. Navigating into a Meaningful Career – taking steps to discovering more fulfilling work

bookcover

Real Happiness At Work by Sharon Salzberg released just this January will be our guide for the mindfulness work. We’ll be reading about, working with and putting into practice the following concepts:

  • Balance: the ability to differentiate between who you are and what your job is
  • Concentration: being able to focus without being swayed by distraction
  • Compassion: being aware of and sympathetic to the humanity of ourselves and others
  • Resilience: the ability to recover from defeat, frustration or failure
  • Communication and Connection: understanding that everything we do and say can further connection or take away from it
  • Integrity: bringing your deepest ethical values to the workplace
  • Meaning: infusing the work you do with relevance for your own personal goals
  • Open Awareness: the ability to see the big picture and not be held back to self-imposed limitations

Q: How is all that going to help me get work I love?

Simple in theory. It’s likely now you’re confused and feeling stuck. It’s difficult to make decisions or even know what you want. If you don’t even know what you want, then how can you plan a way out? Here’s how it works:

Process

Q: How do I know if this course is for me?

Two things.
1. You’re so sick of your job and you hate how it’s affecting your whole life. You just want to be happy and have meaningful work and you can’t take another day. You’ve thought about leaving DC and starting over but can’t seem to pull the trigger. You apply to job after job but aren’t excited about any of them or can’t get a foot in the door. You’re sick of always feeling like you should change your resume and then feeling guilty for watching TV instead. Your friends miss you because you’re too tired to go out anymore and you’re sick of hearing yourself complain to them all the time. Sunday nights make you want to pull your hair out. You’ve considered just quitting and getting a job at the GAP or a cute coffee shop. Your relationship is suffering. You’re sick of waiting around for the perfect job to just magically appear in your inbox. You feel absolutely stuck. Any of those – all of those – and more.

2. You’re ready to commit every week to class time and a little bit every day towards “the work.” Towards YOU. You’re ready to show up, be present, be open and give yourself the attention you need to bring yourself out of this funk and into something awesome. You’re ready today to write that check, buy the book and get an inspirational new notebook just for this course. You’re ready to be there and be part of a group of wonderful and interesting people just like yourself and help others to help you help yourself. (That’s a lot of helping! It’s a good thing.) You’re ready to join “Team Meant For This!”

Bridesmaids

“Annie, you know what your problem is? You. You’re your problem Annie. But you know what? You’re also your solution.”

Q: What makes this course different from all the others?

Well first of all, I haven’t seen any others. I myself was in this situation of hating my job and feeling totally stuck with no foreseeable exit about 7 years ago and my options were limited. I did tandem work with a psycho-therapist and a career counselor and eventually wiggled my way out. It was mentally, emotionally and financially exhaustive. Eventually I got on the path but looking back I did it the wrong way – I don’t want you to have to.

This course is different because it takes a whole new approach to happiness at work. We’ll be using mindfulness as the foundation of change with the help of Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzburg and week to week dedicating our hearts and minds towards creating an exit from your current miserableness onto a fresh, new path full of potential wonderful and fulfilling work.

No Myers Briggs. No resume reviews. No Parachute Coloring.

Q: What if I miss a class?

No biggie, you can catch up. I expect you to commit to each class but hey I know life happens. We will have an online forum for sharing successes and struggles and keeping up on coursework during the week in between sessions. And this forum will be a big part of your success too. The more you check in the more you’ll get out of it.

But I want you to think of this just like a college course. One of those freshman year classes filled with the kinds of stuff they never taught you in school that you should’ve learned before going out into the world. Like how to do your taxes. Or how to change a tire. This course will be that important, that informative, that applicable and if you really want I’ll give you a grade at the end.

Q: Will I have a new job and a career that I love by the end of this course?

I wish I could say yes with absolute certainty! Unfortunately I cannot promise you’ll have your dream job at the end of 12 weeks (that’s up to you!) But here’s what I can guarantee: if you participate each week during the sessions, engage with our online Facebook group between sessions, dedicate time to the assignments and practices then you will get unstuck. You’ll see the clear path in front of you and be on your way to having work that is fulfilling and satisfying and energizing and something you can brag about. Something that will make your friends jealous AND happy for you about all at the same time.

Surf on over to my website for schedule, fees, cancellation policy and other details.
Still not sure if this is for you? Schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation with Rebecca.

“I’m Just Not Meant For This,” a program for job-fulfillment-seekers starts soon. Is it for you?

February 14, 2014
meantforthis

Click to enlarge

I was waiting forever for the Red Line which (surprise!) was running horrendously late. I lamented to an older man sitting on the bench next to me “Oh well, who wants to be at work anyway?”

He looked at me puzzled and said, “Oh, I love my job!”

I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t conceive of such a thing. Because me? I. Was. Absolutely. Miserable.

Perhaps this man (60’s I’d guess) had figured it all out by then. Maybe he was on his 17th career and finally figured it out. Maybe he just got lucky and hit it on the first try. I’ll never know. What I did know, is that it was becoming more and more real to me that I hated my job so much and it was making my entire life miserable.

Back then I thought we were actually SUPPOSED to hate our jobs. That it was normal.

That was seven years ago. Today I finally can say with fervor and certainty that YOU DON’T HAVE TO HATE YOUR JOB.

Seven years ago I was making a six figure salary at a job I hated every minute of. Today I’m making half that and am happier than I ever thought imaginable. Now I don’t want to paint some sort of picture like everything is sunshine and roses, but I got out, I don’t feel stuck anymore, my life is far from miserable and I feel like and my “job satisfaction rating” is off the charts.

And by the way, I got out the hard way. But I don’t want you to have to. I want you to learn from my mistakes.

And there are WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE IN DC WHO HATE THEIR JOBS! And who are so brilliant and talented and interesting! People who deserve to love what they do and love the life they create around that! The majority of my wellness clients are having serious problems caused by the stress of their not-right-for-them craptastic job.

That’s why I’m offering this course. And if you’re anything like me, you need to be fulfilled in a super satisfying way in your work. No conventional types wanted here. No ma’am.

Details will be coming out within the next couple of weeks but for now it’s important that if this sounds anything like you (and you’re in the DC area) that you hop on the Short List so you can find out FIRST when registration opens.

This will be an in-person live-in-the-fleshy-flesh course where you and others just like you will gather regularly and sift through all the crap that’s holding you back from being in a career that makes you truly happy. I’m not going to color your parachute or give you any myers briggs exams. I’m not going to ask for your resume or help you search for jobs. You’ve done all that already. This is something new, something different.

After all, if what you want is something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before. And this course is the first in its existence! Really!

Go here to get on the shortlist. I’ll be in touch soon!

Namaste,
Rebecca
(talk to me!)