Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys

Call me a dreamer, or perhaps an idealist. But when I first picked up the book It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys: The Seven Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized by Marilyn Paul, I thought I'd learn tips and tricks to help me manage my time so I'd be able to, oh, I don't know, make a more profound impact on the world.

I'm the type of person who has more ideas than I know what to do with. I often feel like I'm drowning in "someday" dreams, big schemes, and to-do list items that I just can't seem to mark off my list. I'm not lazy. And I certainly have lots of ambition and drive... so why on earth can't I seem to finish so many of the things that I start? The answer is not as easy as Just DO IT (it makes a better slogan than a life philosophy)! (NOTE to potential future employers: This problem only seems to apply to my personal projects, and not to my work projects which have always always been a top priority and get done promptly and efficiently.)

But after I dove in, I realized this book didn't have a ton of advice on time management and getting more BIG tasks done (not directly, anyway), but it did have lots of advice on handling the little tasks that I neglect in an attempt to finish something that I deem more important by a deadline. It offers strategies to help with the big dirty dish pile in the sink, that laundry pile that you never put away, and the toys (So. Many. Toys.) that always litter the living room floor. Frankly, I never would have read a book about household chores, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed to read.)

Paul doesn't just explain all the reasons (and there are many) why you should adopt the discipline of living a simpler, less cluttered existence. She completely shifted the way I think about the mundane household chores that I used to hate so much. When I stopped thinking of doing the dishes and cleaning the floors as things that kept me from doing more important things, and I started seeing them as an act of self love everything shifted right away. You read that right. I now put organization and household chores in the same category as bubble baths, massages, and yoga classes because they really are a way to make me more efficient, less stressed, and more free to tackle those big projects that I really want to work on. (See also Clear Inbox, Clear Mind.)

Staring at piles of things slows me down, makes me anxious, and is simply not the way I want to live my life. Once I had a better system for putting the laundry and the dishes away, it only takes a few minutes to get it done and move on with life. YES!

It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys is a must-read for anyone who's ever struggled with organization, time management, and, yes, clutter. You can do it, too! Don't procrastinate: Read it NOW.

Read more.
Book Review: Money a Love Story Spoiled Yogi's Summer Reading List
Spoiled Yogi's Summer Reading List
Review: Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Clear Your Inbox, Clear Your Mind

I did something crazy a few days ago.

I opened up my email inbox, full of nearly a decade of personal and business correspondence that I'd been saving (for what? a rainy day?). I clicked "Select All." My cursor hovered for just a second over the "Archive" link. I closed my eyes. I clicked it.

Just like that, my inbox was empty, clean, clear, a blank slate.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I know that the emails weren't completely gone. I can do a search to pull something up if I really need to, which offers me peace of mind. But I also don't have to look at thousands (nearly 20,000!!!) of old emails every time I look to see if I have a new message.

It. Feels. SO. Good! I don't know why I've waited so long to do it.

The whole scenario reminded me of how amazing it feels to be in a yoga class, in my body, forgetting (at least for a moment) about everything else that might be going on in my life. The to-do lists, the overwhelm, and the noise don't go away because I decide not to focus on them for a bit. Like my old emails, they're still there whenever I decide to pick them up again. It's just that once I realize I can let them go for even just a few minutes, I begin to see that life really does go on. I see how much lighter and more at ease I am without all that "stuff" hanging over my head. It's very much like clearing out all of the clutter in your inbox. And, knowing you're in complete control of what you bring back into your head, and how you'll organize it the next go around is incredibly empowering.

Old habits die hard. So, there's a good chance I'll eventually let my emails build up again. (And, really, does anyone really learn to permanently let go of their life clutter because they took one particularly great yoga class? Nah.) But here's the best part! Now, I know exactly what to do the next time I'm overwhelmed with my email (or my life).

I have the power to hit the Archive button, and so do you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Ways to Find More Freedom on Your Yoga Mat

image via Flickr user Ursula Le Guin

A few days ago my daughter, who isn't even 3 years old yet, said something that shocked me.

She took my hands, looked me square in the eyes, and said in all seriousness, "Mommy, I don't need you any more. I'm ready to be a grown up and get my own house."


"Why would you want to be a grown up?," I asked. "Don't you have so much fun being a 2-year-old?"

"Well, when I'm a grown up, I'm going to live in my own house, chew gum, and drink caffeine," she explained. She would also have her own children, a boy named Boy and a girl named Girly. And she'd like them to visit me often for play dates.

After the initial sting wore off (and the humor set in), I realized how completely normal, and actually very good, it is to want to be more independent. (I also realized that right now, when she grows up, she wants to be like me, which is super sweet, right? But I better pay attention to the things I do around her!)

It's human nature to want to be independent and do your own thing. While collaboration and community are no doubt important, there's nothing more empowering than knowing you have all the tools you need to do things on your own. This is especially true on the yoga mat.

Have you ever had the experience of unrolling your mat at home, but you just have no idea where to start? Are you so used to your teacher's guidance that you have absolutely no clue how to practice on your own? You're not alone.

I often talk to my yoga students about the importance of developing their own yoga practice during those times they can't make it to a class. Even when they're in class, I want them to develop the skills of listening to their bodies, following their own breathing (even when it doesn't sync with my cues exactly). It's the difference between giving someone fish for dinner versus giving them their own fishing pole and teaching them how to use it. Practicing on your own gives you insights into yourself that you just can't and won't get if you only practice in a group setting.

Ready to dive in?

Here are a few quick-and-easy tips to finding more freedom (and independence) on your yoga mat.

1. Keep it simple. You don't have to do a complicated hour-long sequence in the same way you would at your favorite yoga studio to reap the benefits. Even if you only remember a few poses at a time, it will give you an opportunity to explore what your body needs and tune into your breath. In my opinion, that's far more valuable that even the fanciest asana sequence.

2. Start small. Practice your 3 favorite poses for 2 minutes each might be all you need to do at first to jump-start a regular, consistent, and amazingly beneficial home practice. Start there, then add on when the spirit moves you.

3. Know that it's OK to make things up as you go. I'll let you in on a secret. I don't always know every pose I'm going to teach before I get in front of my classes. In fact, most of the time I have a good idea what pose I want to end up in. Sometimes we get there, sometimes it's totally inappropriate for who shows up that day. So I have to make things up as I go. Sometimes the poses that I come up with on the fly makes perfect sense, sometimes it doesn't at all. The sequence doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to give you a chance to move, stretch, breathe, and feel.

4. Prepare the body for a specific action. Once you start to feel more comfortable unrolling your mat on your own, you can start to get more specific. Maybe you work on your hips one day and your twists another day.

5. Ask your teacher for help. Just because you're going it alone sometimes doesn't mean you should stop going to class. Maybe using your teacher as a resource means you use something you learned from your weekly class with her as inspiration for your home practice that week. Or get to class early to ask her specifically for some pose ideas for you. I, for one, would be thrilled to help. Even better, schedule a private lesson so you can work together to develop a plan that will help you improve your yoga poses—and your life!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: Money, A Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want

You should spend your money on the things you value most, wrote Kate Northrup in her book Money, A Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want (a book that Elena Brower recommended for struggling yoga teachers in an interview I did with her a while back.) So I took a gander at my bank account to see where my money was going. Would it be yoga classes? Gifts for family members? Adventure-filled trips or memory-making experiences? No, no, and no. I was spending most of my expendable income on ... wait for it... Sandwiches!

WTH? The thing that I value most in life is sandwiches from cafes and delis? How can that be? Do I really love sandwiches that much?

Upon greater reflection, I realized that what I value isn't really the food (it's not even good, healthy food!), but the convenience of not having to make my own meal and clean up the dishes. I think I also like the change of scenery and time to reconnect with my family again. With a bit more planning around my family's meals, I figured out a way to get the convenience factor from more healthier, and less expensive meals—something that freed up more time to spend with my family and more money to put toward things I value more: HEALTHY food, yoga, trips, family excursions, the new car we need.

That was probably the most important lesson I learned from Northrup's book: Money is just and exchange of energy, and it's important to assess where you're putting your energy and make sure that it really does align with your values. When you think about it that way, it's not as hard to change your habits.

Northrup's book also helped me to realize that to reach the financial freedom I'd like, the best strategy might not be to keep adding freelance writing jobs and weekly yoga classes to my schedule, but find creative ways to invest my time and money into projects that can provide passive income. In other words, creating products I can sell instead of always exchanging my time (a limited resource) for money. I've had less success with this part, possibly because I already have so many demands on my time it's hard to manage taking time to finish writing my book or create yoga videos. That's why the next book on my list is: It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys: The Seven-Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized (Compass).

I'm curious. If you looked at your last month's spending and were REALLY honest, where does most of your money go? I encourage you to go take a look—you might be as surprised as I was!

Spoiled Yogi's Summer Reading List
Book Review: Awakening Shakti
Review: Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga

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 ;)

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