Carpe that diem

So this past weekend was absolutely incredible. I TAUGHT MY YOGA FIRST CLASS, IN THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN BOSTON!!! It was completely unexpected and impromptu.

(Quick side note: on Friday night (Feb 10th) it was a full-moon, a lunar eclipse, and a comet was passing by, so one could say it was a pretty energetically intense evening. I pulled two tarot cards and I'm pretty sure they were giving me a heads up about Saturday!)

So once a month, the museum offers Namaste Saturday where they host a yoga teacher and people attend a one-hour yoga class in the big, beautiful indoor courtyard with heated-floors (!). This past Saturday unfortunately the teacher cancelled last minute, but the museum staff were kind enough to allow people to come in and still practice in the space. 


So I got myself all set up by the giant green Chihuly tree, propped my camera on my portable tripod, and had every intention to practice and film myself to share on my IG (and to be able to continue to watch my progress). I started practicing, warming up with some Sun A's, and people started lining their mats up facing me perpendicularly, as one would for the class. One woman suggested I teach, after watching me practice, and in typical fashion I giggled it off, thinking she was joking. However, she wasn't! She kindly 'nominated' me to teach, and having that sense of CARPE THAT FRICKIN' DIEM, I didn't allow myself to think and decided to just do - when would I get another opportunity like this?! 

The staff who organized the event were kind and totally cool with it. I went around to everyone who had shown up (maybe 15 people or so) and explained to them I had been nominated to teach and was open to it, but that they could do whatever they wanted to and I wouldn't be offended. I also explained that I am not a certified yoga teacher, so I would not be touching anyone to make adjustments. I shared how often I practice (3-4x a week) and how long I've been practicing (consistently for 4 years, off and on since high school), as well as past yoga trainings I've participated in. The attendees were incredibly open-minded and supportive, it was awesome!! So, without ANY preparation, OR music, OR audio system, I jumped in and led the hour long class...well, 47min of asana and 5min of meditation (and I didn't even time myself!).

Me post teaching, riding an electric high!  (PS: Thanks to Jackie for this photo!)

Me post teaching, riding an electric high!

(PS: Thanks to Jackie for this photo!)

Let me just say, IT WAS AMAZING. I had a few moments in the beginning where I felt a bit unnerved, and noticed my own anxiety creeping in and preventing me from really focusing on what might feel good to do next in terms of a pose. However, once I let that go and focused on moving my body in a way that made sense, it clicked. 

Sure, I fudged up several times, especially when I was trying my hardest to cue breathing ("exhale forward fold, inhale flat back, exhale forward fold, inhale high to low push up..."), and with mirroring. My energy was positive and high, so honestly I just laughed through it!

The class was a mix of first-timers and even a couple of teachers, so I did my best to create a sequence that tailored to the full spectrum; but I also wanted people to move with their breath, as one of my favorite yoga teachers offers every class, and for people to connect with their bodies in a way that they typically haven't throughout the day. I found myself pulling from TC-TSY, from my experience in my regular yoga classes, and from my role as a therapist - it was, again, AMAZING. I had no idea that I could ever do something like that and be so brave!

After savasana, I struggled a little with feeling so emotionally overwhelmed; I wanted to cry but I was just so moved and felt euphoric! Everyone clapped, which was...surreal. And some of them even came up to me after class, which was so touching. I will never forget that moment or the kind words that were shared with me afterwards. 

I'm still riding the high, and feeling so empowered. 

So fast-forward now to this morning: it's Monday, so I went to my regularly scheduled 6am yoga class with my beloved teacher and soon-to-be-on-the-blog-for-my-interview-series-On Drishti, and in case you're not Boston based, we've been having a lot of snow, and are in the midst of a second snow storm. Turns out, everyone decided to sleep in this morning except my yoga teacher and I! I ended up having a ridiculously incredible private session with him that included some seriously divine adjustments; he also helped me with my form, and it was definitely an invaluable session for which I am eternally grateful.

As I mentioned, I'll be posting my interview with him soon, so stay tuned!!

Take care, be well, take some deep breaths, and smile today. It's gunna be a great Monday!

- S

Yoga as Therapy training

Good morning and happy and healthy 2016 to everyone!

I've finally settled in back at work after a couple weeks off. My husband and I traveled down to North Carolina to spend Christmas with family, and then had a week off together back home here in Boston. We're are finally getting back on track and I'm adjusting back to my old exercise routine (I was getting used to sleeping in until 10:30am!). 

I have been super busy, but I have some amazing news: I've been taking a training on how to incorporate yoga as therapy! The last weekend, January 8-10, focused on working with individuals with anxiety and depression. It's an amazing opportunity because it is consistent with my career, aaaaand it's YOGA! Cue squeals of delight. I read a very interesting book for the training, Buddha's Brain by Rick Hanson, PhD; it talks about neuroscience and mindfulness, and it really breaks everything down into, well, a language I can understand! It’s seriously fascinating how our mind works. 

This upcoming weekend is focused on trauma, which I'm eager to learn more about. The required reading is The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, and it too is really interesting. I appreciate that although he discusses the intricacies of the brain it's easy to understand.

I've started working on some sequences for anxiety and depression to teach to people as a group or individually. I'll give you a snapshot: for depression, the idea is starting someone on the mat and slowly working their way up to standing, or even just sitting up. The sequence that I created starts the person in child's pose, hands wrapped around the body holding onto the heels. For a sequence for anxiety, I started the person standing, although I forget exactly which pose - but you could have someone start in mountain pose or, as we did in our training, have them stand but do a gentle pat down with their hands on their whole body, starting at the feet and working their way up to the head, then working their way down to the mat to go more inward. The idea behind the two different sequences is that someone who is depressed is turned inward, feeling low, closed off, withdrawn; someone who is anxious may have a lot of nervous energy and be very "up", thus starting in a standing pose with someone who is anxious versus someone with depression starting low on the mat. 

Certainly each person is different and sequences are not one size fits all. It's important to gauge what the client/student needs, and meet them where they are at that day. Even if they are only able to make it through two poses, that is still a success. Moving the body and connecting with the body, the breath, calming that monkey mind, all of these factors contribute to mitigating symptoms. If anything, it provides a moment to reconnect with the body and process the feelings that arise within a safe space, with a therapist. 

So you're probably thinking, "how can this girl teach yoga when she's not a certified yoga teacher?" Ok, truth. I am still a therapist, first and foremost, so for me, including yoga as therapy within group or individual sessions is just a complementary tool, just like a meditation would be if I utilized it in a session. With this type of yoga as therapy, no touching is required, and there won't be crazy inversions or arm balances that require months and years of yoga training. This training has also really emphasized that we participants know our limits, and therefore I recognize that I do not have the sufficient training to actually teach a full on yoga class; with using yoga as a tool within the constructs of therapy, it will allow me to safely assist the client/student in connecting with their body and exploring emotions that poses can bring up and allow one to access. I recognize it certainly isn't for every client/student, but for those who are open to it and willing to be a participant it's been proven to be so effective. 

- S