Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to Write a Yoga Teacher Bio

Image via Flick user DSG Mktg

Yoga teachers are an odd bunch—it's true there are many MANY different approaches to the practice, but most genuinely want to share this amazing practice that we've fallen in love with with as many people as possible. The problem is, sometimes we get so wrapped up in our practice, we've lost touch with reality. We forget what it was like to have no idea how completely ridiculous our jargony, yoga speak can seem to those who have not been initiated. Nowhere is this more rampant than in the yoga teacher bio section on every yoga studio website, well, everywhere.

The New Yorker recently picked up on the ridiculousness and poked a little fun at entrepreneurial yoga teachers in this gem. (If you haven't ready it yet, do yourself a favor and read it now. I can't stop laughing at it.)

Truth be told, most yoga teacher bios really don't tell us anything about who a teacher actually is or what to expect in her class. Instead, they most tell us what that teacher thinks we would like to hear, or what might impress us or intrigue us enough to show up at his next class.

Well, teachers. I'm calling BULLSHIT.

How can we teach from a place of authenticity if the face we show to the world (our bio blurb) is just a list of yoga celebrities we've studied with and meaningless certifications? It's not doing you any favors, either. Other than your yoga pals, nobody gives a FLYING F**K if you studied with Baron Baptiste, trademarked your own yoga and boot camp mashup, were on the cover of Yoga Journal, or have 156,000,899 followers on Instagram. Your potential students (the ones who might actually take time to read your bio) care what your actual classes might be like and whether or not you'll embarrass them in front of the whole class when they can't figure out how to do the poses in proper alignment. They probably also want to know if you'll be able to talk to them using language they can actually understand, which, you know, is kind of an important quality for a teacher.

So, with that in mind... this is what my yoga teacher bio should REALLY say:

Erica loves yoga so much it's infectious—or really annoying, depending on where you're sitting. Really. It's like she just can't stop doing it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, teaching it, and applying it to everything she does. She's studied many different styles of yoga, and she draws on those styles as inspiration, but really just teaches whatever the hell she wants to in the moment. Erica has been teaching yoga for a really long time, but she still mixes up her left and right at least once in every single class she teaches. Every one. If that bothers you, stay far far away. Her goal is to make yoga challenging and bring greater awareness to both body and mind. She also tries to keep it light hearted, which means she weaves in lots of corny jokes that aren't that funny and laughs at herself when she screws up her sequences (which, as I've already noted, happens often). She talks incessantly about her daughter and the adorable yogic lesson she learned the last time she refused to take a nap. Other than that, she's a really good teacher, who cares a lot about her students, most of whom she considers dear friends when she's away from the yoga studio.

Note: This image was taken years ago when Erica was younger and less wrinkly and grey. Even then it was probably Photoshopped just a tad. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.

Need help writing your yoga teacher bio? Email me at spoiledyogi@gmail.com. ;)

Read More ,,,
A Lesson for Yoga Teachers
Book Review; Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga
How to Become a Yoga Teacher

Monday, January 26, 2015

4 Surprising Things That Help Me Manage Anxiety

It might come as surprise to some people, but I have a theory that often it's the biggest yoga enthusiasts who struggle most with stress and anxiety. I, for one, had been living in such a chronically stressed state for years that I didn't even realize it until I started taking yoga classes and I finally began to experience what it felt like to actually relax. Then, I had to go to classes to get my next yoga fix in the same way that other people pop Xanax to handle the pressures in their lives. Yoga has absolutely been the best tool I've found to help me handle stress through the years. But there have been times when it just wasn't enough. (Gasp! I know!)

In fact, in year or two after my daughter was born, I had some pretty crippling anxiety that I thought would never go away. Some of this, of course, was the natural anxiety that comes with the territory of attending to a tiny person's every need all day and all night without a break. I worried about bumps and bruises, food allergies, and sleep schedules. I also worried about completely irrational things like whether or not the grandma in the grocery store thought I was a bad mother for allowing my infant to hold the frozen peas. "Isn't that freezing her poor little hands?" (Buzz off, Lady!) Truth be told, though, I've always had a lot of anxiety. It's just the way I'm wired. So, I've tried pretty much every natural remedy under the sun to help me cope. Amazingly enough, it isn't the fancy essential oils or holistic massages that have helped me the most, it's the small things I do everyday that have made a huge difference.

Things like:

1. Eat a lot of healthy food, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, remember to breathe, and take walks in the sunshine. I know, I know. It sounds too simple, too easy. But I promise you, making a point to take care of my most basic needs is one of my best defensives in this anxiety battle.

See also 5 Healthy Foods

Photo via Flickr user Ted Eytan
2. Clear the clutter. I have a high tolerance for clutter (if you don't believe me, ask my husband.). If I have company coming over, I would rather walk around piles, or tuck things away into a heap in a closet than sit down and find a proper place for things. If someone had told me I need to clean up my act a year ago, I would have rolled my eyes and said in my snarkiest tone: I'm stressed out because I have too much to do and you want to ADD CLEANING UP to my to-do list? Great advice. But, when I made a commitment to myself to start keeping my living area clear of toys and my kitchen sink clear of dishes something amazing happened. A fog lifted. I could think more clearly. I could find the things I needed without picking up the same damn pieces of paper 400+ times and that meant more time for ME! I was free!

See also My Cat Poops in the Floor (And Other Things That Don't Matter)

Photo via Flickr user Bart Speelman
3. Plan ahead and get the mundane shit done ahead of time. It might sound crazy, but realized how much anxiety simple tasks like making dinner was causing me after I participated in my first Wildtree freezer meal workshop. I came home with 10 full meals to put in my freezer, a healthy plan for a week and a half of dinners, and one less thing to think about. It felt great. I have a creative job, so I can't always sit down and do my writing work ahead of time, but learning to get the mundane tasks (like grocery shopping, meal planning and prep, lunch packing, laundry, and choosing clothing ahead of time) makes a dramatic difference in how anxious I feel. It also helps support Number 1 and Number 2 (Winning!).

See also How Fashion Changed My Life (Or At Least My Mornings)

Image via Flickr user Kathleen Franklin
4. Learning to be kinder to myself. Don't be fooled into thinking I've got everything figured out because I'm learning to value Numbers 1-3 on this list. I don't. I'm almost never able to keep it all together, which gives me two choices: I can berate myself, or I can accept my beautiful mess (as Elizabeth Gilbert calls it) as part of my unique charm. Being kind to myself is the hardest practice of all (and, trust me, keeping my dishes clean an put away is NOT easy for me!), but it also has become a safety net for those times (and there are many!) that I fall short on my yoga practice and everything else on the list. It's a shift in thinking that could benefit everyone.

See also A Yoga Practice for Confidence + Self Acceptance 

I know I'm not alone here. What have you found helps you most with your stress and anxiety?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Reality of Morning Exercise with a Toddler

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was finally—FINALLY—able to have a consistent morning prenatal yoga practice. I remember bragging to my mother in a phone call, saying something to the effect of: "I just realized if I can't get up and do it now, there's no WAY I'll be able to keep it up when the baby gets here."

It was nice of her not to have me committed.

I fully envisioned voluntarily waking up at 6am every morning to do an hour or two of yoga, even when I was up every two hours all night long with a newborn. I didn't think I'd even have to take a break. (OK, mamas... Go ahead and have a big laugh at my expense. I'll wait.)

See also Balancing Poses, Balanced Life

The reality is this: I was in no shape physically or emotionally to even THINK about unrolling my yoga mat until my daughter was around 5 weeks old. And when I did start practicing again, my sessions looked dramatically different in every way than they did before I became a mom. Now that my daughter is approaching her 3rd birthday, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever have the energy and motivation to wake up early (on purpose) to exercise or meditate ever again.

Every now and then, I'll think. She's old enough now. She sleeps through the night. It's time to start my morning yoga routine again.

Then this happens:

I place my phone (with alarm) right next to my head and turn it down low so the sound will wake only me. When I hear my alarm, I move slowly, gently, but as fast as possible to un-wedge my arm from under my daughter's head (by this time she is always, ALWAYS in my bed). Once the alarm is off. I lay in the dark for a minute to ensure that my daughter has fallen back into a deep enough sleep that I might possibly be able to move without waking her. When she's still again, I roll, slowly, quietly out of the bed. I tiptoe carefully out the door, turn on the white noise machine in the hallway, and try to usher our deaf (and really LOUD) cat down the stairs and as far away from the bedroom as possible. That's when I make my coffee. I sit down for just a moment, enjoying the silence. A moment, turns into a few moments. I think to myself, I should meditate or something. I sip my coffee. I breathe. This totally counts as meditation. I notice my coffee cup is half empty (or half full, depending on the day).

If I've made it this far, that's when everything goes downhill. It is approximately 7 am. I hear a loud beeping noise. Shit! It's my husband's alarm. He rolls over and turns it off. I have about 3 more seconds before my precious me time is over. I frantically sip my coffee. Silence. They went back to sleep. OK. It's now or never. Yoga time! I grab my mat. By my calculations, I have just enough time for 5 quick Sun Salutations before the alarm goes off again, ruining everything. I take another sip of coffee, and unroll my mat—it's even more vital to do this quietly now that I know my family is stirring upstairs. I feel my feet underneath me. I stack my bones. I breathe. Inhale. I reach up. Exhale. I fold forward.

Inhale—"MMOOOMMMMMMMMMYYYYYY!!" Damn it! My yoga session is over before it really even begins. I slowly walk back up the stairs like sad dog, tail between her legs. Why did I think I could this was a good idea? When I make it upstairs, my daughter demands that I lie down with her. We cuddle until 7:30am, at the moment I fall back to sleep (why, yes I CAN do that after half a cup of coffee), she's ready to get up. I roll out of bed a second time, more bleary eyed than the first, to start my day. For real this time.

My Toddler is a Yogic Sage
My (Almost) Two-Year-Old Taught Me Pranayama
Yoga Books for Babies

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Yoga Practice for Confidence + Self Acceptance

I got some bad news this week. It's the kind of set back that could easily cause me to question my abilities and my worth. For a moment, it set me on a path of woulda shoulda coulda thinking that has facilitated a downward spiral toward depression for me before. I refuse to let that happen this time. Nope. This time, I'm going to channel all of my excess time and energy into cleaning up the clutter (both physically and in my mind), creating beauty (both inward and outward), and investing in my own  potential—my projects, my business, and my success. This time, I will trust that everything is going to work out just as it should. 

Here's a short, sweet little practice that is helping me get over myself, accept what is, and nurture myself back to health and happiness after the blow. As an added bonus, it's also  helping me melt the chronic tension in my shoulders and upper back.

I hope it will help some of you, too.

1. Start with a Positive Affirmation.  
Bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra, close your eyes, and take 5 cleansing breaths. As you fill your lungs, think to yourself "I am _______." I usually use a words like "creative" "confident" "courageous," "calm," or "compassionate." Notice how you feel as you remind yourself that you already are everything you want and need to be. Repeat for 5 minutes, or until you feel ready to move on.

2. Give Yourself a Hug. 
It can be difficult to see your situation in an objective light—especially when you're dealing with emotional circumstances. But that's exactly what you need to do when you're feeling down. Stack your right elbow on top of your left right in front of your heart. Walk your fingertips toward the center of your upper back, possibly holding your shoulder blades like handle bars.  Stay here, or bring your forearms upright so your thumbs point toward your nose for Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms. With an inhale, lift your elbows up toward the ceiling. With an exhale, feel your shoulder blades move away from each other and round your upper back. As you synchronize breath with movement, practice enveloping yourself in love, compassion, and kindness. No matter what you're going through, you deserve that. After five rounds, which sides.

See also What Does Your Favorite Yoga Pose Say about You?

3. Pat Yourself on the Back. 
Reach your right arm up, fingertips reaching toward the ceiling, palm facing toward the left. Bend your elbow and feel your  right hand come right in between your shoulder blades. This is where you pat yourself on the back. Think of 3 of your accomplishments from the day, the week, the year, or even your whole lifetime. Stay here or swing your left arm behind your back and clasp your hands behind you for Gumukhasana (Cow Face Pose) Arms. Take 3 more breaths, then repeat to the other side. (And, yes, I'm sure you CAN come up with at least 3 completely different achievements because you're THAT awesome!)

See also 5 Poses You Can Do While You Drive

4. Give Yourself Some Love. 
Press the soles of your feet together in front of you and let your legs take the shape of a diamond for Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). (If you notice your knees are far away from the floor, sit up on a folded blanket.) Press your thumbs into your arches, and give yourself a foot massage. You deserve! Take 5 breaths. Then, stretch your chest up toward the ceiling, and bow forward, keeping your collar bones broad as you fold forward. When you can't bow any further, let your head drop so that your forehead rests on the floor, a block (or 3), or on a chair seat. Take 5 more breaths remembering your earlier affirmation. 

Read more.
3 Steps to Combat Holiday Stress
Yoga Practice Tips
4 Things I Love about Iyengar Yoga

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Best Excuses I’ve Ever Heard to Get Out of Yoga Class

I teach yoga in some unconventional places all over the Charleston, SC area, which means I spend a lot of time chatting up the benefits of yoga with people who are, well, not exactly as excited about this practice as I am. As soon as I think I've heard every excuse in the book, someone surprises me with a new one. I have a canned answer for the lovely folks who say things like like, "I just can't bend that way" or "I have horrible balance." However, it's those people with the most honest, unfiltered, creative, and humorous excuses that I remember the most. 

I salute the creative minds of the people who came up with the following gems (and you should, too!): 

1. That’s a nice offer, but I have pizza rolls waiting for me at home, so... (Awkwardly backs away.)

2. I’d like to, but I didn't bring any other clothes and.. I’m wearing my skinny jeans today. See?

Image via Flickr user McArthurGlen Design Outlets
3. On Election Day: 
I can't stay for yoga today because I have to go vote.
(I point to the "I voted" sticker on his shirt.)
(Shrugs) A co-worker gave this to me.

4. Me? Come to yoga? You’re serious, aren't you? Bahahahahahahaha!

Image via Flickr user Sham Hardy
5. Prenatal Yoga student via email:
I'm not going to be able to make it to yoga tomorrow because my water just broke and I'm in labor right now. 

Image via Flickr user futurestreet

What's the most creative, honest, surprising excuse you've ever heard (or given) to skip yoga class?