The phrase “Lead with your heart” has been rolling around in my brain a lot for the past week.
It came up in week two of Love Yoga Teacher Training when we were exploring spinal movement. I told Tiffany Maloney, our awesome instructor, that I wasn’t sure I was moving the thoracic spine (the goal) rather than the lumbar spine (not what we were going for). “Lead with your heart,” she told me with her hand at the middle of my back. It was a simple physical instruction that resonated.
As an admitted lifelong nerd, I often move from the head instead of the heart. I think through what I already know and seek out more information. I read; I analyze (or overanalyze); I plan. I figure it out. But sometimes you need to just feel, and let your heart guide you.
I’ve felt my heart fill time and time again as I’ve watched Tiffany and other Love Yoga teachers lead from the heart recently. Our community suffered a tragic loss the day before my teacher training began when one of our teachers was killed in an accident. Grace Lee was a gifted teacher with beautiful spirit. Even in the short time I knew her and the few classes I took from her, she taught me to be more patient with myself and to have more fun in my yoga practice. Her signature line was telling you to move the corners of your mouth toward your ears, her “sneaky yoga teacher” reminder to smile. I loved that! It’s still hard to believe that someone so young (24) and so full of life is gone from this life. My heart goes out to her family, friends, fellow teachers.
Even as they struggled to process their own pain, Love Yoga teachers have done an amazing job of leading. The studio filled beyond what I thought capacity would have been for a beautiful practice in memory of Grace a week later. Her mat, covered with flowers and surrounded by lit candles, became the heart of the room as Tiffany’s gentle instructions and perfect playlist guided our movements. It was an unforgettable celebration of a well lived but too brief life.
After the practice, Tiffany invited everyone to write tributes or memories on the wall. I thought about picking up a pen, but my head still couldn’t find the words I wanted to say. Trusting enough to lead with my heart does not come easily for me. Maybe that’s why that instruction kept echoing when Tiffany said those words a day later in teacher training.
Instead of writing on the wall, I guess I’ll write my tribute to Grace here – Thank you, beautiful teacher, for sharing your joyful spirit with us. Your light lives on. Namaste.
I’m barely a week into teacher training at Love Yoga and already noticing benefits. The first to draw my attention was an increased sense of body consciousness.
Now body consciousness is not always a good thing. Like just about every woman out there, I’ve struggled with SELF-consciousness about my body from time to time. Junior high (miserable and mostly blocked from memory). When I gain weight. When I make the mistake of looking around the yoga studio and comparing myself to others.
But the body consciousness I noticed after starting teacher training is an intensified version of what I’ve found in the past 15 years or so when I’m practicing yoga regularly. I notice my posture, so I correct my posture. That improves my spinal alignment, so my back, shoulders, and neck feel better. I look better because my belly isn’t pooching out — as much. I could still stand to lose a few pounds. But — get this — one of my friends asked me the other day if I had lost weight!
The cool thing is that now I’m more aware of my body and how it moves, thanks in part to my required daily yoga practice and in part to the mountain of reading I had to do in the past week. I came home from Day One of training with about 10 pounds of books covering a range of topics – philosophy, Sanskrit, and anatomy. In the anatomy book alone, I’ve read about Dynamics of Breathing, Yoga and the Spine, the Skeletal System, and the Muscular System in the past week.
Even though I’ve always been bookish, science is a subject I’ve generally avoided. So this anatomy stuff is new to me and helped heighten my awareness of my body. To people with a background in exercise or athletics or dance, this body consciousness thing probably wouldn’t be such a big deal. But as I’ve mentioned before, I try to steer clear of exercise. My few forays into athletics did not go well – two years of T-ball, two years of fast-pitch softball, and one season as the second worst player on the JV volleyball team in high school. And most of my dancing happens in the living room or at live music venues.
Yoga is different because you pay attention to how you move your body and what it is capable of doing, but — if you approach it the right way — there’s no judgement. If I look at yoga as a staircase, I might be on the fifth step on one day, down to the second step the next day and up to the seventh step the third day. And that’s OK. A yogi friend and I spoke about this the other night, and she observed that yoga might be the only place in American society where that happens. That’s a shame. But if she’s right, at least we have that one place.
I start yoga teacher training one week from tomorrow. Why did I sign up for that?
1. It’s good for me. – I hate to exercise, but I like yoga. Yoga teacher training will
force encourage me to practice more frequently.
2. Vocabulary – I’ll learn how to say all those funky cool Sanskrit words.
3. Posture – Maybe I’ll finally start doing chautauranga, or chaturanga or how ever it’s spelled, correctly. It’s a freaking yoga pushup. I hate that asana. It’s too much like exercise. Did I mention that I’ve never liked exercise?
4. Balance – I’ll master an arm balance or two. OK, that’s unlikely, but I’d like to try. It looks so GORGEOUS when other people do them. I’d settle for crow. Or baby crow. Or something easier. Maybe I’ll learn something easier.
5. Pleasure – Yoga makes me feel good – body and soul.
6. Giving – Once I know what I’m doing, I’ll be able to introduce the awesomeness of yoga to other people. I’m really excited about that.
7. Motivation – It will give me something to write about. So I’ll start blogging more. Which I’ve only been talking about doing for a year or so. Procrastinate much? I guess I need a deadline or a schedule or something. Thank you, yoga teacher training!
8. New friends! – I expect to get my fellow yogis VERY well. That should be fun!
9. Learning – I like to take on projects to learn new things. It’s time for a new one. Maybe I’ll talk about some of the past ones in future posts.
10. Service – So I bitched about the service project requirement a little in the last post. It’s really just that I bristle at requirements. I actually like the idea of doing a service project. I’m already toying with several ideas of how I can use what I learn to be of service to my community.
And in the spirit of giving more than what’s required (because I don’t like anyone telling me something’s required) …
11. Introspection – Too much navel gazing is boring, annoying or both, but a little introspection is healthy from time to time. This is one of those times. I find myself wondering “What’s next?” a lot lately. Looking inward in these next several weeks should help me decide.
Peace and kindness! Namaste!
So, I created this blog more than a year ago planning to use it as a catalyst for personal creative writing. That obviously didn’t work out so well since this is my first post. Here’s to fresh starts.
The year since I created and ignored this blog has been fun and eventful. Five girlfriends and I went to Spain together for two glorious weeks. I enjoyed a summer full of fun pool parties with great friends. In the fall, I signed on to help stage manage a wonderful community theater production of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and ended up running sound instead. Always good to learn new things.
I’ve knitted a couple of hats for my nephews then ended up with a pretty abysmal attempt at a scarf for my mom. The knitting’s been in the closet since then. Instead, I’ve been enjoying my book club, a lot of live music and theater, laughter with friends and the hubby, and yoga.
I’ve practiced yoga on and off for about 15 years, but in the past year, it’s been much more on. I’ve really enjoyed and gotten into to it, practicing at a local yoga studio and online through a WONDERFUL website, yogatoday.com. I’ve been inspired to go further with yoga and have signed up for a yoga teacher training session that starts in a few weeks. I guess that’s what prompted me to revisit this blog. It seemed like it might be fun to track my yoga journey during the training. Once I start that, who knows what else I might decide to write about. We shall see.