Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tools for Teachers

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I've been pondering enrolling in another yoga teacher training. But as much as I long to be a part of a community again and to dive deeply into the philosophy, history, asana, and anatomy for a second time it's really hard to commit to spending another $3,000 + to get a certification I already have! So I'm going to keep pondering it... but in the meantime, I've been reliving my first teacher training by perusing the books I used in teacher training (and laughing at the notes I made in the margins). And I'm also discovering some really fantastic tools that are helping me to become a better teacher, too.

Here are a few of my current favorites.

Yoga for Healthy Aging
Unfortunately, I do not have a photographic memory or a background in healthcare. Now, I know the basics--the parts of the body and contraindications for poses that my teachers refer to again and again--but a lot of my anatomy and medical knowledge went out the window shortly after I got my teaching certificate.

The Yoga for Healthy Aging blog has been a godsend! It's written by a team of experienced yoga teachers, including medical doctors Baxter Bell and Timothy McCall. It has practical anatomy as it pertains to yoga as well as lots of new, fascinating yoga studies explained in a way that even someone with absolutely no medical knowledge can understand it. I love love LOVE that they have their posts labeled so when I need to reference something like arches of the feet or the shoulder joint, I can find all the posts pertaining to it in the navigation on the right hand side.

This is a website by yoga teachers for yoga teachers, founded by my friends Nancy Alder and Anna Guest-Jelley. There is lots of great information for teachers here--and it's great community. I love the marketing content written by the folks at Bizeebee. There's also a monthly challenge--something to focus your teaching energy on--as well as free online workshops, videos with tips on alignment, etc.

Jason Crandell Blog for YogaGlo
Jason Crandell is a teacher I want to be like when I grow up. He's clear, concise, and confident in his instructions. More importantly, he knows exactly what he wants his students to take away from each class whether it's attention to a particular movement or a yogic concept. In his blog for YogaGlo he shares his secrets. 

Yoga Journal Teachers Channel
Its not always easy to to navigate, but if you're patient there's a wealth of knowledge here. Whether I'm looking for advice about a particular injury or medical condition, looking to clarify my communication, or want marketing ideas, I know I'll be able to find good advice written by a seasoned and experienced yoga teacher here.

What's your favorite yoga teaching resource?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Stinky Truth: Showering is for Suckers

Image via Flickr

It's confession time.

I didn't take a shower yesterday. And you know what? I might be a lot stinkier in the days and weeks to come. Here's why.

I recently read an article about how meditation can help you become a better leader (and, frankly, a better person in general). It was written by someone who should know. A Harvard Business School professor... isn't that like the leader of the smartest leaders like.. anywhere? It's a great read--go ahead, see for yourself.

At this point you might be wondering what the heck this has to do with my lack of personal hygiene. Let me explain. I'm a work-from-home mom now, so I juggle my part-time writing work and a baby who sometimes demands more attention than I ever imagined could be possible. My little one is going through a phase (a phase that has lasted pretty much since she was born, except the week or two when she was a newborn and I was pretty sure she hated my guts) where she sleeps approximately 10 minutes when I put her down in her crib for a nap. After that she starts screaming. I go get her. She falls asleep in my arms again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

10 minutes. 10 precious minutes is all I have to do something for myself. In that time, I have a choice to make: I could do a little work. I could write a blog post. I could answer emails. I could shower. OR I could simply close my eyes and pay attention to my breath.

So if I have to be a little stinkier to be a better leader (a.k.a. better mom, better yoga teacher, better writer, and generally a better person) so be it! This is one of the many perks of staying at home--I can be stinky and no one has to know... unless I write about it on my blog... Don't judge me!

Smell ya later.*

*Direct quote from The Fresh Prince

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Trouble with Thanksgiving

It's here! Can you believe it's already Thanksgiving week!? I love what Thanksgiving represents... counting your blessings. spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature's bounty.

There's only one problem..

The traditional Thanksgiving feast--especially a traditional Southern Thanksgiving feast--doesn't leave many options for vegetarians. It's not as simple as just passing on the turkey, gravy, and stuffing (which, by the way is delicious with vegetable stock instead of turkey). Southerners have a knack for adding meat in the most creative ways! Mashed potatoes are flavored with chicken stock. Green beans have bits of pork floating in them. Cranberries are mixed with Jell-O. The sweet potato casserole has those tiny marshmallows on top.

If you're someone's guest, and you know they've slaved for hours over a hot stove for YOU, it feels horrible to just keep passing the serving dishes on by because you can't eat what's on them.

As a yoga student, I chose a mostly vegetarian diet in the name of ahimsa, or non-harming. It just feels wrong to me to eat animals ... but at times like Thanksgiving dinner when you know you might be hurting someone's feelings (and seem like a high-maintenance, ungrateful snot in the process) ... well, that just doesn't seem right either. Have you ever tried explaining vegetarianism to a 90-year-old grandma who lived through the Great Depression? She thinks you should be grateful to have a plate full of food--not worrying over whether it has chicken stock in it. It's Thanksgiving, for crying out loud! There are no winners in this situation.

I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year, which means I can make sure I'm not eating meat products for the first time ever! Hooray! (Public Service Announcement: If something has "just a little bit" of bacon in it, your vegetarian guests still don't want to eat it.) But I'm struggling with having a turkey and other traditional foods that I know my guests will want. I don't want to be the reason that others don't enjoy their holiday in the way they choose to celebrate it, but I also know there are lots of other fantastic options.

So, I'm asking for advice from other vegetarians out there. How do you handle this delicate situation either as a guest or a host during the holidays?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hardly Working Yoga Teachers

This new video from College Humor is a funny, but really exaggerated look at how some yoga classes seem. Beware of the  uncomfortable Savasana adjustment, weird New Age talk that doesn't make sense, and contradictory instructions.

Has anyone else ever experienced any of the yoga teacher mistakes featured in this video?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds With a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer

I know it's only November, but do you have a New Year's Resolution yet? Many of us start to think about what goals we'd like to set for the next year around this time. I don't really like New Year's Resolutions, but there's one thing I'm determined to change--the food I feed myself and my family on a daily basis.

See, I have a baby who just started eating solid foods. And, being the yoga mama that I am, I am making my own baby food for her from fresh, organic, local when possible vegetables and fruits. It might sound hard, but it's actually super easy to make a big batch and freeze it into individual servings in ice cube trays. So I'm making an effort there, but I realized I'm putting forth all this effort to make sure my baby eats healthy foods while I serve frozen pizza to my husband and myself... something just doesn't add up. It won't be long until my little one will be eating the same foods I make for us, so if I want to keep her on the healthy foods track I need to find healthier options. (And applying the same, make a big-batch-and-freeze-for-later mentality I'm realizing it doesn't have to be much more effort than going to the grocery store to buy frozen pizza.)

Just when I was coming to this conclusion, I got a little surprise in my mailbox.

enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer, now in paperback, tells a story of how my YJ blogging colleague Jessica Berger Gross changed her relationship to food through her yoga practice. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I couldn't put it down. I could relate to many of her struggles. The advice she offers is practical and simple enough that I could start putting it into action easily. The focus isn't really on weight loss so much as eating reasonably and getting exercise. In my experience if that's the focus everything else will fall into place--whether you need to lose weight, manage stress, or work your way out of depression--taking care of yourself in this way is a great start.

I'm not really interested in losing weight. Despite my admittedly rather poor eating habits (I'm a junk food vegetarian), I've been a healthy weight for most of my life. I managed to lose my extra baby weight within a month after giving birth (I attribute this to yoga and the fact that I didn't gain much because I was nauseous for most of my pregnancy). But enLIGHTened reminded me of the importance of eating right, taking long walks, and putting my health as a top priority no matter how many other things are happening in my life. And I'm also a  little obsessed with the veggie chilli recipe in her book--I'd never thought to put broccoli in chilli, but it is yumm-O.

BTW, yesterday I asked my Twitter friends to share their favorite vegetarian recipes with me. Here are a few of my most recent favorites! (Add yours to the comment section below, please!)

Little Quinoa Patties
Mexican Black Bean Enchilada Casserole
Veggie Jambalaya

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Charleston, SC is one of the BEST Cities for Yoga

A couple of years ago, I made a big move from the yoga rich San Francisco Bay Area to Charleston, SC. Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities I'd ever visited. It has old buildings, cobblestone roads, romantic gardens, and some of the most amazing beaches. Charleston also has some of the best restaurants and a thriving art culture. When Charleston was named the Top Destination in the WORLD by Conde Nast Traveler 2012 Readers' Choice Awards, I wasn't even a little bit surprised. This is a great place to live! But how does the Charleston yoga scene stack up? I've done a lot of yoga in a lot of different places, and Charleston is one of the best places to get your Om on. Here are just a few of the reasons.

1. Studios Galore and Amazing Local Teachers. I've heard a rumor that the Charleston area has more yoga students per capita than anywhere else outside of New York City. I have no way to confirm this rumor, but there are TONS of studios offering nearly any style of yoga you could want. I'm a notorious yoga studio hopper so I've tried most of them--and they are fantastic! I'll share my favorites in another post soon!

2. Traveling Teachers. Since I moved to Charleston, I've been able to take workshops with Kathryn Budig, Cora Wen, and Jason Crandell (three of my most favorite yoga teachers of all time). I've recently missed workshops by Briohny Smyth, Dice Iiada-Klein, Doug Swenson, and Chrissy and Kenny Graham. Because this town is SUCH a celebrated destination--and because we have such a thriving community (offering the best in Southern Hospitality, ya'll)--top-notch teachers want to come here. And Charleston residents get to benefit. Lucky us!

3. Community Events.There are plenty of yoga friendly events in Charleston. From the annual yoga marathon to benefit Louie's Kids in Marion Square to the new Green Fest there are plenty of opportunities for yoga students to come together to celebrate the practice and the lifestyle. Back in June, the new Lululemon store on King Street organized one of the coolest yoga events I've seen called King Street Yoga. One Big Ass Yoga Mat .. They closed down the street so yoga students could line their mats up to practice. Check out the pictures here. More than 500 yogis showed up.

4. Yoga Adventures. Want to try something new and exciting? Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga? Check. Aerial Yoga? We've got that, too. Beach Yoga? Oh yeah!

5. Healthy Lifestyle. It's true. Charleston, SC is steeped in Southern culture. And that means sweet tea and deep fried foods! But Charleston is a pretty progressive city with a lot of healthy options for local, organic foods as well as active pursuits--both of which are pretty important for a thriving yoga lifestyle.

Have I convinced you? Or do you think your city has Charleston beat as the best yoga city? I'd love to hear why!