Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I Decided to Do Yoga Teacher Training

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for over ten years now, but it wasn't until 2013 that I really started ramping up my practice to about 2-4 times a week.  By January of 2014 my yoga practice started to evolve into a way of life, and so I signed up for a program with Katy Rowe called “40 Days to Personal Transformation," (which I blogged a lot about here) Those 40 days proved to be truly transformational for me and became the beginning of my dedicated daily yoga practice.  A month or two later I found myself craving more, and so I signed up for a Yoga Immersion with Christen Bakken.  
Throughout 2014 my practice grew – I was learning something new almost every day and growing in incredible ways, on and off my mat. I did 365 days of handstands with Joy Wegs, went to Hanuman Yoga Festival, (started wearing yoga pants as actual pants!) and it didn’t take long before The River started to feel like a second home to me.  When The River’s Yoga Teacher Training program came around I toyed with the idea of participating; I thought it might be an opportunity for personal growth, or a way for me to take my yoga practice to the next level, but ultimately decided that it wasn't my time.  Although my first time on a yoga mat was 11 years ago, I felt that my real personal practice was still in its infancy. How could I presume that I knew enough to teach anyone anything?
Thankfully, Christen and Katy had other plans for me. They gently prodded me, encouraging me to join their info sessions, and slowly I started to come around.  I waited until the training was almost completely full before I finally caved and claimed my spot in the program.  And now that it is over, I cannot believe that I second guessed it for even a minute. 
"The Thundercats" my co-teaching group from our Teach-Out
The River’s YTT program was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. There aren't a lot of opportunities in adult life (at least in my life) for personal development, and YTT proved to be an amazingly fertile ground for my own personal growth. Coming out at the end of YTT, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and for the first time in my life clarity in my visions and goals for my future.  My personal practice has been also invigorated.  I now have a greater handle on foundational alignment, an understanding of and appreciation for the history and evolution of modern yoga, and the ability to guide myself through a home practice, or modify or up-level any public class that I attend to suit my body’s needs.

Beyond all of this, I am now teaching yoga! Something I had never really aspired to do (or thought I was capable of).  I feel confident that Katy and Christen gave me all of the tools that I need to go into the world and share my love of yoga with the community.  I still have so much to learn – I will forever be a student of this practice – but now I am also finding my voice as a teacher and am so excited to have an opportunity to take on this new challenge.
This is the moment I declared "I'm a Yoga Teacher!" Can't even contain the excitement!
I can’t even express how thankful I am for the friendships that I made in my teacher training group.  If you’re looking for a community to belong to, an opportunity to grow, or just a new challenge, don’t even think twice!  There will be ups and there will be downs, but it is definitely a ride worth taking! I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

365 Handstands: That's a Wrap!

I can't believe it! Last night I finished up 365 days of handstands! What an amazing year!
Celebrating my last handstand with my yoga family at The River Power Vinyasa in Denver

Last year, when I started my journey, I was in the midst of my 40 Days to Personal Transformation with Katy Rowe at The River.  Boy did it ever transform my life and my practice!?  A year later, I am about to finish up my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program (also at The River) and my personal practice has been completely transformed. 

I'm not sure that I have much more to add about why I did my handstand challenge than what I've already written about it (here) but now that it's over and so fresh in my mind, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to reflect on what I've learned.  

(1) Nobody is Perfect:  Last night after my final handstand, a yogi friend came up to me and told me that after I told her about my 365 Handstand project, she went home and started her own, but after 4 days she forgot a day and 'failed'.  Until she said that I kind of forgot that I had gone through the exact same thing.  In both of my 365 day projects, I forgot a day within my first week. In fact, over the last year I forgot more than once, which is why I started my project on February 28th, 2014 but finished it on March 4, 2015. 

But the thing about it is that no body is perfect, we all make mistakes, and when we do we have a choice to give up or press on... to consider it 'ruined' or honor your intention, dust yourself off and try again.  If I had restarted my clock when I missed a day (especially in the beginning) I probably never would have finished.  But giving myself permission to be imperfect, to be human, allowed me to press on.  Until last night, it was a lesson I didn't even realize that I learned on this journey, but now that I've spent some time thinking about it, what a powerful lesson it is!! Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to recommit to your goals however big or small or silly they may be. Every new day is an invitation to forget about the mistakes of the past or the ideals of the future and focus on the present and what you can do right now, on this day, in this moment.  

(2) Surround yourself with people who know about your goal, support your goal, and are striving for the same or similar things:  I started this little project after being inspired by two fellow yogis at my studio (above Julie Dollarhide and Joy Wegs pictured below)

When I first decided that I wanted to join Joy and Julie in their 365 Handstands, I was afraid to tell them. They were so much more experienced than I, their yoga practices more 'advanced.' They were both yoga teachers and I felt like I was just really beginning to find my personal practice. I could barely kick up to the wall at that point and it seemed like they had already been working on handstands for years.   I have to admit, it took me a little while to get up the courage to tell them that I was playing along too. In addition to feeling like I maybe wasn't worthy of the challenge, or that they would think I wasn't ready for it or serious about it, I was afraid to share my decision because I knew that once I told someone about it, I would be held accountable.

Looking back, sharing my goal with them (and with everyone else around me) was the best possible thing I could have done.  Through a community of yogis, friends, and family who knew about my project I found support, encouragement, and accountability.  And accountability is exactly what I needed to keep it up, because there were MANY days (like day 364) when I was in my PJ's, exhausted and about to go to bed (or sometimes I was already IN bed!), and a handstand was the last thing I wanted to at that moment.

(3) Grownups need to have more fun: Last night, after I finished my project, the obvious question everyone was asking was, "Whats Next!?"  We were all laughing and chatting about the projects and what I could do next and someone suggested doing plank pose for 365 days.  Of course my knee jerk reaction was, "YUCK! NO!"  and then I thought about it a little more and considered for a moment that maybe it would be good to have a project that was more difficult than fun.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the beauty of both of my 365 Projects was that they were FUN.  

As adults we have PLENTY of drudgery in our everyday lives. Every day I have at least one thing to do that I would rather not.... laundry, dishes, paying bills, shopping, WORK! Why add another thing that to my life that isn't fun!? The beauty of 365 handstands, for me, was that I 'forced' myself to have fun for at least a couple seconds every day. Because for me, even when I am frustrated or really working on some aspect of handstands, it is always fun for me to play on my hands. I don't think anyone can deny that grown ups DO need more fun in their lives! 

(4) Life is a journey, not a destination: I think what made this project so fun for me is that it was never about getting the perfect handstand.  Of course getting better at handstand is generally a goal and a by product of practicing everyday, but the thing that got me started and kept me going was never to be perfect at handstand.  It was, and will continue to be, about the journey.  It is about giving myself something to strive for every day and making space in my life for growth.  If you're not growing, your dying. right!? It's not really about attaining some arbitrary goal, its about every day working towards being the best possible version of yourself  - and this can apply to any and all arenas of your life handstands, your job, as a wife or mother.... 

The problem in life though is that sometimes it is really hard to see any progress - you do the same work every day, change is slow coming, and small victories get over shadowed by the grind of daily life.  You take two steps forward and one step back and sometimes it feels like your just not getting ANYWHERE!  Handstanding every day is like that too, but it is much easier over the course of a week or a month or even a year to see that I am getting better at handstands than it is to see that I'm becoming a better wife or sales person.  

And documenting it gave me proof!  Check out these videos, the first is from Day 8/365 and the second is from Day 311 - holy crap! What a difference a year makes! 

I hope that I can use this experience as a reminder of the difference a year makes.  If I am always working towards being my best self, I cannot help but grow - even if it is hard to see the progress myself.

(5) Just Try It! You might surprise yourself!! 

Check out my InstaGram post from day 170:
" 170/365 #365handstands today was the first time I ever got this, but it was also the first time I ever tried. funny how I had convinced myself that I wasn't capable of it yet without even giving myself a chance... O the lies we tell ourselves! What artificial limitations have you put on yourself? In practice or in life... reminds me to check my expectations at the door and take a leap!!" 

Man is it easier to try new things on my yoga mat than it is in real life! On my mat it's ok to fail.  If I fall down, I get back up and try again. Practice makes practice as they say. But in life it is so much harder. The stakes are higher and the possibility of failure is real. Yoga in general, and 365 days of handstands specifically, has taught me this over and over again throughout the past year: If you never try, you never know what you are truly capable of. I'm still working on pulling this lesson off my mat and into my life, but little by little it is making its way out into the real world.

So what will my next project be!? Honestly I have no idea.  I took about a year off between my first Project 365 and 365 Handstands, so I'm not in a rush to pick something else today or tomorrow.  However, I do know that today is day 64 of 365 handstands for 2015....  I might just keep this party going for a while.