Business as Usual?

I returned to live teaching at a local pain clinic two weeks ago and it’s been joyous. The only ‘connectivity issue’ is attempting to teach while wearing a face mask. Other than that it has been a joy to see people from the waist down, no longer backlit, and with the clarity that can only come from being face-to-face. It’s been a joy to hear them breath. A joy to hear them complain when I ask them to stand up.

But my community classes on Zoom will continue because Zoom classes are joyful, too, for a different set of reasons. 

Over the past sixteen months we’ve built a community on Zoom and at the same time we’ve built a practice that is truly our own. The privacy we’re gifted by COVID’s forced isolation means competition with others has been eliminated. All we’re left with is how our body feels in the moment, the guidance of our teacher and the space we’ve created for our practice.

Pre-pandemic, and acknowledging that space in my home is a limited commodity, creating room for yoga was far down the list of priorities. But COVID has forced us to do just that and, in a rapidly approaching post-COVID world, why would we give that up?

When I practice at home the practice stays with me. In my body, in my bones and in my heart. As soon as I click ‘end meeting’ I sit back for a bit. There is no urgency to race off. I’m content to let my body and my mind rest for a few more minutes.

But the moment my teacher ends a studio class – and I’m pretty certain I am not the only one who does this – I’m rolling up my mat, stacking my props and racing out to my car to beat the traffic on my way to the next thing on my ‘to do’ list. Along the way I might check my phone for important texts or gossip with a friend about what happened the night before. Where is my practice then? Did I practice at all?

In my little corner of the world we enjoy a very high vaccination rate – 72% of adults have at least one dose – and that has returned to us some of the life we enjoyed before March, 2020. The Delta variant is waving a yellow caution flag but that hasn’t stopped us from moving toward our New Normal with open restaurants, gyms, hair salons and yes – even a few open yoga studios.

I wonder, in these sixteen months of practice, how we can hold onto what we’ve learned about ourselves? Can we carry it with us when we return to studio classes? 

Here’s something else to think about. How has the studio system changed? Have studio owners adapted their business model to the New Normal or is it business as usual?


A Sacred Space

I’m often reminded of my yoga ‘origin story’ – how, for years, I studied with Iyengar instructors. How, back then, my practice was informed by hard-edged alignment principles and yoga mats placed in perfect rows on the studio floor. I loved it.

But things change. My body changed. My practice changed. I changed. Over the years those hard edges have softened. I’ve even been known to teach a class with mats placed in a circle like the petals of a flower. Gasp! Quelle horreur!

But have I left all of my Iyengar sensibilities behind? I don’t think so. It’s true that I traded hands-on adjustments for precise verbal cues a decade ago. And I stopped expecting cookie cutter correctness once I gained a greater understanding of human anatomy. My hope for students is that when they step on their mat they let go of expectation, judgement and agenda. When a student steps on their mat I hope they are also stepping into the present moment and meeting their body where it stands.

The yogasana I’m interested in practicing now – the yogasana I’m interested in teaching – is not about doing. It’s about sensing. The yogasana I’m interested in is not about pushing through forms. It’s about noticing the sensations that rise in my body as I move through those forms. It’s about noticing my breath, my thoughts, the attitude I bring to my practice. The yogasana I’m interested in is about paying attention. It’s about discipline.

But then again, it has always been about discipline. I learned that studying Iyengar yoga all those years ago.

Discipline is not my strong suit. Except when I am on my mat. When I am on my mat I am in the practice whether I’m teaching, practicing on my own or attending a class. 

I think Zoom challenges our ability to remain present and focused on our practice. I think it makes sustained discipline difficult. We have the challenge of finding dust kitties under the bookshelf in downward dog, the aroma of coffee as our partner prepares breakfast for the kids and our animal companions demanding a morning cuddle. At the same time we don’t have the energy of a purpose built studio that feels like a sacred space. We don’t have the energy of a living, breathing community gathered together for one purpose. 

In the best of times it takes effort to sustain a yogasana practice with diligence, discernment and discipline. But now, when our yoga community consists of tiny, flat rectangles on a laptop screen, it can feel impossible.

But it isn’t impossible. 

Practice with intention. Remember why you practice in the first place. For the hour you are on your mat, find the strength to maintain your focus. Treat that little rectangle on the floor – your yoga mat – like the sacred space it is.


For the New Teacher: The Business of Yoga

IMG_0168Sometimes it’s hard to think of those two words together: business and yoga. But yoga is a business. It’s a very big business. In fact, it’s a $27 billion dollar industry. And as yoga teachers we have a choice. It begins with asking the questions, “What does success as a yoga teacher mean to me? Is it about money? Fame?” Maybe it is. Maybe that’s your dharma. There’s no shame in being a yoga rock star who travels the world leading workshops or lands the cover of Yoga Journal. But what if your dharma is leading one class a week for seniors at the local recreation center? Or teaching underserved populations? Or not teaching at all?

I think for most of us there’s a middle path. I think most of us envision teaching three, maybe four classes a week, taking on some private clients, teaching a few specialized workshops and finding a local studio that holds space for our work and encourages us to grow. A studio we can call our yoga home.

It won’t happen over night, but if that’s what you want there is some groundwork you can put in place that will support the journey:

Join Yoga Alliance. Your 200-hour certificate will allow you to register with YA with the designation “RYT.” As you begin to teach you’ll keep track of your hours and you’ll be able to upgrade your designation. In time you’ll also qualify as a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP). This is a good thing. It means that, eventually and with enough experience, you will be able to offer workshops through which students can accrue continuing education units. As members of YA we are required to continue our education. This can include contact hours like workshops or additional trainings or it can include non-contact hours like research and publishing. Joining Yoga Alliance won’t make you a better teacher. But it’s a great resource. There is a yearly membership fee involved but there are also member benefits. Explore the Yoga Alliance website to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Have adequate insurance. Some studios will have policies that will cover you but if you intend to rent space to teach or to see private clients in their homes you must have liability insurance. The Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance websites will have information about how to find low cost insurance.

Continue learning. Attend classes, take workshops, read the latest research. Practice what you teach.

Cultivate a professional reputation:  Show up for classes on time, start class on time and finish on time, be present for your students – be an active listener, do not speak disparagingly of fellow teachers or studios, take the Yamas and the Niyamas to heart.

And that’s pretty much it. Almost…you may want to consider having a professional headshot to use for marketing purposes, creating a basic website to list your classes or, if you’re up to it, creating a blog.  Social media accounts dedicated to your practice and teaching are a nice idea, too.

What about taxes? It’s not as tricky as you think.

If you are an employee at a studio it is like any other job.  You’ll receive tax forms at the end of the year and you will file as usual.
If you are an independent contractor you will need to fill out a Schedule C when you file your taxes.  So keep good records of everything you earn and everything you spend for your yoga business. You might receive 1099 Forms from places you work. You most likely won’t receive these from private clients.
If you are an independent contractor and therefore self-employed, remember that you will owe not only income tax but self-employment tax (Social Security & Medicare) therefore you should pay quarterly estimated taxes.

 

 


Subbing Season is Early This Year

IMG_2073

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m helping out a few friends over the next few weeks by teaching their classes while they:

  1. attend a wedding
  2. take an unexpected business trip
  3. recover from an injury

And so, in addition to my regular studio schedule…

  • Monday Evening Yin at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 7:30 to 9:00
  • Tuesday Morning Flow at Samyama from 7:00 to 9:00
  • Tuesday Morning Iyengar at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 9:00 to 10:00
  • Thursday Morning Flow at Samyama from 7:00 to 9:00
  • Friday Morning Iyengar at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 9:00 to 10:00
  • Friday Afternoon Yin at Samyama from 1:30 to 2:45
  • Saturday Afternoon Flow at Samyama from 4:00 to 5:30

…I’ll also be teaching these classes:

Saturday, June 8:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Bethany

12:30 – 1:30 PM at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto for Candy

Monday, June 10:

7:00 – 8:30 AM at Samyama for Bethany

Wednesday, June 12:

7:00 – 8:30 AM at Samyama for Bethany

11:30 – 1:00 PM at Samyama for Amy

Saturday, June 15:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Bethany

Sunday, June 30:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Clive

Wow! I’m going to be one busy yoga dog! I better stock up on Scooby snacks!

Looking forward to sharing our yoga journey.


Sit. Stand. Breathe. Live.

yoga

Sometimes we forget. We forget we’re not teaching yoga. We are teaching asana. And we forget Patanjali’s teachings: that asana is just one of the eight limbs. Most classes called yoga focus their intention on asana. Pranayama receives a cursory mention. The other six limbs – yama, niyama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi – are left dangling in the breeze of our ujjiay breath.

I think that as asana teachers we find ourselves caught in trends. From practicing postures on paddle boards to holding shapes in slings, fitness trends are fine but they are like rainbows. Beautiful, fun and illusory. As fast as one trend disappears another arcs across to fill the sky – or the yoga industry – with light and color.

I’ll be honest. There’s a part of me that would love to be that teacher who enthusiastically embraces every trend and explores its possibility. But you won’t find me practicing asana on a paddle board – even though it looks like fun. And you won’t find me hanging in a sling or holding dhanurasana while balanced on the soles of my partner’s feet.

More than anything I would like to begin a new trend. I want to begin the trend that sees asana teachers coming back home to yoga. I want those of us who call ourselves yoga teachers – including me – to be yoga teachers.

A few nights ago I attended a class. A yoga class. You read that right. Not an asana class. A yoga class.

When I told fellow teachers and friends I was going to John Berg’s Intro to Yoga class on Tuesday night at Samyama they looked at me a bit funny. “Don’t you mean his Vinyasa class?” Nope. I meant what I said. After thirty years of practice and nineteen years of teaching I was a beginner. And, as a beginner, I wanted a beginner’s class.

In ninety minutes we sat, we stood, we practiced vrkasana, we breathed. In between we reviewed the eight limbs. We listened to a brief talk on yama and niyama. We spoke of intention. And forgiveness. I spent that hour and one half in a state of moving meditation, grateful to John and his teaching but equally grateful that I followed my heart through the studio doors of Samyama.

I believe, as teachers and as students, there are times for expansion. Times when focus on heat building asana is the right path. But I also believe that we abandon ourselves when we fail to listen for the quiet times. The times when we need to step back – contract –  and remember that as much as yoga is about the body, it is about so much more.


We Have a Date! Samyama will Open its Doors in March

IMG_1656

Samyama Yoga Center, the new studio in Midtown, Palo Alto that I’ve been harping about for the past six months has Grand Opening Date officially set in stone. Following a celebratory Grand Opening Party on Saturday the 9th and an Open House on Sunday the 10th, classes will begin on (drum roll, please):

Monday the 11th of March

(Update…Our opening date has had to be pushed back a few weeks.  No, we won’t be opening on March 11th but when we DO open, and it won’t be long after our original date, Midtown will light up with Yoga Joy!  We’ll keep you posted…)

I’ll still be teaching:

Gentle Morning Flow:  Tuesday and Thursday from 7-8:30 AM

Yin Flow:  Fridays from 1:30-2:45 PM

   Hatha:  Saturdays from 4:00 to 5:30

    If you haven’t checked out the Samyama Facebook page yet, click here.

      Give us a look and then give us a ‘like’.


How the Faux-Grinch Made Christmas All Her Own

yogaI’m not really a Grinch. I’m just one of those folks who love winter not for the shiny tinsel but because their’s nothing quite as cozy as a cold winter day burrowed under the blankets with a few good books and a hot toddy.

Too much burrowing, however, does not a festive yogi make.

This year I’ve decided to celebrate the season doing what I love. Yoga.

And I hope you’ll join me. Over the holidays I’ll be teaching these four classes at the California Yoga Center:

Monday 24 December – Christmas Eve

7:00 – 8:30’ish PM (please note earlier start time)

Yin Yoga

Donation Based

Tuesday 25 December – Christmas Day

9:00 – 10:30 AM (please note extra half hour)

Hatha Flow

$18 drop-in

Monday 31 December – New Year’s Eve

7:00 – 8:30’ish PM (please note earlier start time)

Yin Yoga

Donation Based

Tuesday 1 January – New Year’s Day

9:00 – 10:30 AM (please note extra half hour)

Hatha Flow

$18 drop-in

CYC Students – Please note the time change on the Yin Yoga class.  We’ll be starting at 7:00 and NOT 7:30.  Also note the extra half hour added to the morning classes.  

I think we deserve a longer savasana on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  Don’t you?


Samyama

 

The term samyama refers to the combined practice of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (union). It is a technique we can utilize to cultivate deeper understanding of the qualities of an object or a person or a concept. It’s said that the yogi who successfully practices samyama will experience the lightness of being freed from the mental constructs – the kleshas – that bind us to the ‘real world’. In other words, samyama liberates us from obstacles, hindrances, troubles and suffering.

Samyama is also the name of the new yoga studio opening in Midtown, Palo Alto in October (just in time for Diwali).

Samyama isn’t your ordinary yoga studio. It’s one man’s vision manifested. To read the history of how Samyama began, click here.

Two months ago John Berg and I met for coffee at Philz – John’s office until the new one is built. The following week he invited me to teach at Samyama. I’ll be joining local yoga master Anirudh Shastri plus Louis Jackson, Annika Williams, Hillary Easom and Bethany Sala. One or two others have yet to be confirmed but the truth is John is keeping the teaching staff small for a reason – he’s not creating a yoga mini-mart with 48 available flavors . He’s creating a yoga home.

And I can’t wait to move in.

 


Weekly Inspiration and Class Schedule

“Do you know what it means to learn?  When you are really learning you are learning throughout your life and there is no one special teacher to learn from.  Then everything teaches you:  a dead leaf, a bird in flight, a smell, a tear, the rich and the poor, those who are crying, the smile of a woman, the haughtiness of a man.  You learn from everything, therefore there is no guide, no philosopher, no guru.  Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”

– Krishnamurti

Let life be your teacher.

 

 

 

Here’s my schedule of drop-in classes for the week:

  • Yin Yoga – Monday Night @7:30, California Yoga Center on Cowper in Palo Alto.
  • Slow Flow – Tuesday or Friday Morning @9:00, California Yoga Center in Palo Alto
  • Hatha for All Levels – Wednesday Night @6:15, Prajna, El Camino Real, Belmont

And for those of a certain demographic:

Take a look at the website for details on all these classes and more.


Summer Class Updates

If you’ve been to my classes you’ll know that I love to “hang out” in the asana. 

I don’t believe in rushing, I don’t turn yoga into aerobic exercise, and the thought of practicing yoga in order to build a better backside is loathsome to me. 

So if you enjoy exploring the shape of a pose, feeling how the energy shifts as you change your alignment; if you enjoy testing your strength and flexibility while dialing down the stress – then I’m your guide.  My classes begin with two minutes of quiet reflection/meditation and end with savasana.

Seasons change and so does my teaching schedule. At least a little bit.

Here’s a summer update:

California Yoga Center

The Monday Evening Donation-Based Yin Class continues to meet from 7:30 to 9:00 PM at the Palo Alto Studio.  All equipment is provided.  Some understanding of Yin is helpful (you can find that here) but not necessary.  There is no class on Monday 30 July.

My Tuesday and Friday Iyengar-inspired Slow Flow meet from 9:00 to 10:00 AM at the Palo Alto Studio.  Please bring a yoga mat.  These class are Level I/II. $15 drop-in.  The class on Friday 27 July will be taught by Terry Lesser.  The class on Tuesday 31 July will be taught by Lisa Brill Robinson.

Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts

My Hatha Yoga Class meets on Wednesday from 6:15-7:30.  Please bring a yoga mat. There is no class on 4 July. The class on 25 July will be taught by Yiwen.

Avenidas

Registration for Summer Session, which begins on Monday 9 July, is still open.  I teach two classes at the senior center:  Monday at 1:00 and Friday at 10:30.  We’ll have seven class meetings over eight weeks, with no class on Friday 27 July or Monday 30 July. 

For further details on any of these classes check my website.