The truth about a home yoga practice

Pose 1.3 Downward facing dog
Pose 1.3 Downward facing dog

If you are waiting for things to be perfect to have a home yoga practice you will never have a home yoga practice.  If you are waiting for a room devoted to yoga, or a full hour to be able to practice every day you will never have a home practice.  The best advice I ever received was practice every day even if you only have 10 minutes.  10 minutes every day is better than an hour once a week.  This serves me well even today.

Before I became a yoga teacher I thought yoga teachers had these perfect home yoga practices.  They must have whole rooms in their house devoted to nothing but their mat, a mediation cushion possibly a Buddha, and a stereo.  They must have these perfect hour-long daily practices at 4am where cares just fall away and they lose track of time they are so in the moment.

Yeah, not true.  Well, I sorta have a yoga room, but it's also sorta filled with boxes and other things too and there are many dust bunnies full of dog hair floating around.  There is a dog that I know I should put in another room, but he sits in the same room watching me.  I normally have time to practice right when I get home from work not early in the morning and I rarely get more than 30 minutes let alone an hour.  The house is normally a disaster zone because even though I'm great at many things, I am not great at keeping a clean house.  There are oodles of distractions around me.  It's just like normal life.  A normal life and a home yoga practice go hand in hand.

Tonight when I got on my mat, I found myself distracted because I was using my least favorite mat (yes, yoga teachers or at least this yoga teachers acquire multiple mats) and I kept slipping. Then I noticed the floor needed cleaning, and the dog being curious about what I was doing. Then I remembered it was about the breath not those other things.  For a few minutes I was able to stay with my breath and then I quickly got distracted again.  I noticed and then I tried to take it inward once again.  I wasn't very grounded tonight.  Getting on my mat and trying in the first place was the reason I noticed.

My message is don't wait for the situation to be perfect, Don't wait until you have enough time.  Just go get on your mat for 10 minutes even if you lay in savasana breathing for all 10 minutes.

Speaking to Liberal Arts College Seniors about Life and Yoga

It was Wednesday and I was racing home from work to let my Berner Max out.  Fumbling with the lock to my own front door "Hi bub, let's go out" I coo.  He wags his tail and races toward the back door eagerly waiting for me to let him OUT.  Three tasks are begun at once (the opposite of mindfulness I should point out), changing my pants from work slacks into yoga slacks, filling my dogs bowl with food and shoving a piece of cheese in my mouth.  With Max back in the house, given a solid scratching and fed, I race back out to my car.  The whole process from parking in my drive way to pulling back out again took 6 minutes tops. Speeding up Friendly Avenue from Downtown I realize it's a beautiful day especially for February, I roll down my window and try to relax.  It's not nerves.  I definitely wouldn't say it's nerves, I'm cringing now, because maybe it is.  My mind wonders off, I think to myself "Tumbleweed wonders why I don't have time to clean my car regularly, but what would life be like if I did have the time to clean my car regularly?"

Guilford College comes into view, I make a right.  This place used to be home, it still feels familiar like a warm cup of coffee.  Before I left work today my manager ribbed at me "What you didn't want to do a presentation for upper management because it was stressing you out, but you'll go talk to a class of college students?" "This is different" I said. But is it?  Isn't this more important than upper management in corporate america?  We are talking about people on the cusp of graduation, wide-eyed seniors ready to take on the world mostly having no clue what's next and they know it.  Yeah, this was actually way more important than any work presentation that I've ever given.

My Freshman year Photography college Professor Mia has humbled me a third time by asking me to speak to her cap-stone class (a special class for seniors;  a culmination of their college experience).  I mostly know the questions Mia will ask me in advance.  It's not a formal presentation but I never feel fully equipped to answer the questions.  They're hard.

A) What did you learn and take with you from your Liberal Arts Guilford education?

B) What would you tell your graduating Senior self?

Yeah! Tough ones.  How would you answer those doozies?  After all hindsight is 20/20

We (as in the whole class and myself) were sitting outside on a patio, basking in the last rays of the February sun as Mia asked me those questions and a few others.  When I get in front of her classes, I alway feel tongue-tied.   If I had told my manager about it in advance he would have been happy to help me practice or rehearse my answers, he would have helped me polish the story I told and maybe I should have done that.  I didn't practice or rehearse, I mulled, and I mulled and I mulled.  Ultimately I just wanted to be real.  I want to be raw, and honest with these young adults the way I wish people would have been real with me.

I wish someone would have told me to not worry about the money, take more risks, follow your heart, explore and don't be so worried about "security" it will come.  I didn't have the heart to say that to them, mostly because that advice still scares the hell out of me.  That's probably what I should have told them.  That's probably the advice I should take myself, but I'm not ready.  I'm still too scared, too practical.  Maybe the next time I go speak to Mia's class I'll get to say I took a leap of faith and you should too...

It feels like I rambled on and on to them.   I hope there was meaning to my ramble.  Then we walked across campus to another building that had space for us to practice yoga.  The campus was as beautiful at night as I had remembered.  It makes my heart ache with love when I see how beautiful it is and once again I feel like I've made my way home.

We roll out our mats like sardines in a small room in the back first floor of the King building.  So much has changed yet so little has changed.  These are the yoga classes I'm most nervous to teach.  I remind myself (as I remind others) to let the yoga speak for its self.  I don't need to add flowery language.  It doesn't have to have bells and whistles, it's just yoga and they probably need it.  45 minutes came and went quickly and then we got to the end.

We said Namaste and I had to rush out quickly.  Half running half walking back across campus to my car (arms full of extra yoga mats), my heart felt good because I knew Guilford would always be my home.  I sped back across town to teach my last class of the evening, vinyasa challenge at the studio, but at least the hard part was behind me.

Get Uncomfortable


The theme of today's power flow yoga class was "Get uncomfortable".  Why?  Because yoga strips away our layers of defense, but it will do this in a subtle gentle way.  The practice of getting on your mat at home or in a challenging class will teach you how to sit with discomfort.  Yoga will give you an opportunity to watch what bubbles up inside you and sit with it, either good, bad, comfortable or uncomfortable.  Discomfort is a strong teacher.  At the heart of it the teacher, the Guru, is yourself.  You have to get quiet, still and centered to be open to the lessons that emerge in a yoga practice.  The practice of yoga will eventually over time teach you that it's perfectly ok even when things don't feel good.  We don't need to push away from things that are uncomfortable.

You've been there, you've felt it.  The place in the pit of your belly where your instinct to run comes from, the instinct to push away or mask our reality.  It's the desire to turn on music or TV, check Facebook, drink a few glasses of wine, or pop a prozac.  It's the instinct to make friends with anyone but yourself.  All of those defense mechanisms are ways for us to ignore what doesn't feel comfortable or pleasurable.  Life isn't supposed to be pleasant all of the time.  If it were you wouldn't learn anything. What would happen if you invited the discomfort, awkwardness and difficult feelings to come in?  What would happen if you sat with them and really looked at what they had to teach you?  I'd venture guess that the more you get uncomfortable, the more you'll be able to make friends with yourself.

I invite you to come take yoga classes with us at Greensboro Downtown Yoga. I invite you to challenge yourself to get uncomfortable in a new way.  I invite you to make friends with the shadow side of yourself, the darker places that might not always be pleasant to confront.  I can't promise you happiness and perfection, but I can offer you a new perspective.  This practice will help you make friends with yourself.

Karma yoga and giggling through corpse pose

YOGA SEW-ON PATCH When did the girl scout pledge change?  Why didn't anyone tell me?  Here is a service announcement to those of you who are unaware, THE GIRL SCOUT PLEDGE HAS CHANGED.  I certainly didn't know this, and it startled me as I sat in front of a group of brownies nervously waiting to teach yoga to these second graders.  I probably wouldn't have been in front of these lovely gals learning the new girl scout pledge if I hadn't been taught how important Karma yoga was.

The YTT program I attended was big on what was called Karma Yoga.  Karma yoga is teaching yoga for free, no personal financial gain.  This is an important concept, we have so much, most of us have more than what we need daily.  In fact if you are sitting in a warm house with a full belly reading this, then you (like me) are privileged.  This is a place of abundance.  Most of us have an abundance in our lives although often times we are too focused on what we don't have to realize what we do have.  Karma yoga is a way to give back and to remind you of how much you do have and where you can share. Karma yoga highlights where you can give and how much you have.

Think back in your life about all of things that were given to you.  Parents who chose to give selflessly over and over again, teachers who often go above and beyond the call of duty, coaches who might have been working with you on a volunteer basis often after a full day of work or taking away from their own work or family time, mothers taking extra time to lead a brownie troop.  Your boss that believes in you who is willing to come in early to help you work on a presentation during their own personal time.  The long time mentor that checks in on you and is willing to write a letter of recommendation you need for a program you're applying to.  The list probably gets long fast.  Others have helped us through our whole lives.  The big question is where will we choose to become the helper?

These are things I mull over often, it's clear to me that I live a life of privilege and abundance.  With privilege and abundance come responsibility.  It's not enough for me to go to work, teach yoga, go home make dinner and repeat.  I need to put something back into my community.  Giving back is something I've been wanting to do more of this year.  The studio schedule including more free community classes this year because that is a focus for me personally.  We are also working on expanding a work-study program so that anyone who wants more yoga in their life will not have to let money be a reason they don't do yoga.  Even bigger than within the doors of my studio there is a need.  There are people who need yoga and they don't even know they needed it yet.  There are seeds of yoga that need to be planted and I'm going to have to get outside the doors of the studio to be able to do that.  My skill is yoga which means I should share what I do well and I can only reach so many people at the studio.

So far in January I've taught two Karma classes outside of the studio, one working with Greensboro youth council and another tonight with a Brownie Troop.  I'll be the first to admit this is way outside my comfort zone.  Working with children alone is difficult for me.  Working with grade school or high school was never something I felt "called" to do but here is where there is a need.  I'm not entirely sure how to connect with kids so I was stretching my yoga skills way beyond the normal adult classes I've been teaching.  Luckily these two groups have been kind, and worked well with me allowing me to share what knowledge I can in an hour.  I'm still certain that working with youth is not my calling, but it doesn't mean that I can't do it every once in a while to share my knowledge or plant the seeds of yoga.  My goal is to teach a karma class at least once a month outside of the studio.

This Karma yoga has been greatly challenging, but I'm certain even though I'm not receiving any monetary gain, and it's been difficult to fit into my already packed schedule, I'm definitely the one profiting.  By teaching these different groups, I learn more about myself, more about the art of teaching yoga, and hopefully am becoming a better steward of my community in the process.

In life giving back to my community feels important, I don't want to just take.  Tonight I got giggled at all through savasana.  I also felt dumb, and raw, because kids are great at seeing right through you.  I also wondered if I was speaking to them in a real way, in the way my 2nd grade self would have like to have been spoken to.  Then I prayed I was sharing something of value with them, crossed my heart and hoped that someday they would remember the way plow felt, or the way happy baby seemed fun and ridiculous all at once.  That hour with them was not easy.  In fact all of the Karma yoga I've taught this year has been difficult and challenging way beyond the normal challenges I face teaching yoga in a studio.  I don't know what else to say about it.

Heres to hoping it makes a difference.  Heres to hoping that this helps others deeply.  If you have a gift, a talent, free time or energy, consider sharing it, there are those that need you and if you don't who will?


IMG_1153 When I opened Greensboro Downtown Yoga, it was a creation based on faith.  There was not a crystal ball telling me I wasn't going to go bankrupt, nothing to re-assure me that I could make this work.  No-one actually saying "Alisha we want a Vinyasa yoga studio in downtown Greensboro".  This was blind faith that I had something others could get behind.  This business is not mine.  Not really, it belongs to the other teachers that teach at my studio, it belongs to the students coming to class and it belongs to the many people who have supported me in one way or another in building this particular creation.  The neat part it is that it's not done growing!!  The momentum is fantastic and the numbers are trending in a way that I think this could be our year.  There still isn't any re-assurance that I can make this work long-term, it's still scary, unnerving and a heck of a lot of work on top of a full-time job.  What keeps me going is that not only do I love yoga, and love teaching yoga, but I know that this studio is bigger than me.   Ultimately the studio doesn't belong to me anymore, not really, it belongs to all of the people who's help and support I've received in building this business.  The studio belongs to all of the teachers I work with at the studio and all of the students that show up on the mat for themselves in the space that has been created at Greensboro Downtown yoga.  All of those people give me faith.

Yoga, it's powerful.  It can rock your world if you let it.  I'll warn you, it can spark destruction and creation, build friendships and help bring relationships to an end, pull out the best in you, shed light on the darkest parts of your being and transform your life, if you are willing to let it.  If you are willing to embrace what it reveals and do the work.  My faith in that lead me to open the studio.  My faith in the power of yoga lead me to open Greensboro Downtown Yoga.

It was faith that has led me to entice my friend Andra into helping me create a teacher training program for the studio.  Faith that the students of Greensboro Downtown Yoga are ready to take their practice to the next level, faith that there are those in our community that feel the calling to share this yoga that they are so passionate about with others.  A teacher training program is a big piece to the puzzle of a successful studio.  So once again I'm creating something based on faith.  I have the faith that you need this program in the way that I needed to create it.  It's not mine anymore.  It's out there now for you to be a part of.  Come be a part of this creation, come deepen your practice, tap into the faith within yourself, that your desire to share yoga with others is legitimate.  Honor the wisdom within yourself.  Take the leap, come be a part of our growing community in a deeper way.