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yoga

Yoga – You Can Achieve More Than You Think

Some of you may know that I’m not the typical yogi. I’m not shredded and the only six-pack I’ve ever had was a six-pack of Guinness or another reputable alcoholic beverage. You won’t see me with a man bun or wearing flowy pants……though I used to have long hair and do wear a poncho on occasion so maybe……

Anyway, I have been practising yoga for about nine years now and teaching yoga for two years.

I love a tough vinyasa class, a class where I will sweat like Christy Moore giving it loads on the Bodhran, if you know what I mean, but I stayed away from crazy intense poses like handstand, headstand, inversions in general. To be honest, I was scared of them. I was scared that I couldn’t do them and that I would fail or hurt myself. Scared of lots of things.

My preference as a teacher is to teach Vinyasa Yoga. That was my goal since I took YTT with Semperviva two years ago. Last year I took a 40-hour Vinyasa add on and landed a regular teaching slot at Just Yoga shortly after that.

I feel I can give a tough class without necessarily having a very challenging peak pose or any peak pose at all for that matter. In my opinion, I have no business teaching a pose unless I can take that shape myself.

Six or eight months ago I had a niggling feeling that I would love to be able to do tripod headstand. This was partly my ego when I saw other men in classes with strong practices but also partly my sense of responsibility nudging at me. I thought that if I want to be a Vinyasa teacher maybe I should be able to offer some inversions in my classes.

The same feeling came over me with handstand about six or seven weeks ago.

If you asked me even a year ago after having taught yoga for a year and having practised for many years if I would ever be able to get into headstand or handstand the answer would have been a solid no.

A wise man once said that hitting the bullseye is the result of a thousand misses, so for tripod I found a really intense but short sequence to build up to it and I practised every day. I definitely missed the bullseye…a lot.

The same was true for handstand. I was always amazed at people able to take a handstand in a yoga class and after I had signed up for Alo moves (an online yoga studio) I found a 31-day handstand routine and thought I’d give it a go.

I remember there were times in both the tripod practise and the handstand practise that I was utterly convinced that I was going nowhere and making no progress with either posture but we don’t call it practicese for nothing.

Practise:

Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

For Tripod, it happened by accident. It was winding down time in the office on a Friday and I thought I’d give it a try. What had been agonizing core work for me for a long time – raising my legs to the air with my head on the ground, happened like magic with absolute ease.

With Handstand, even 2 weeks ago, I thought I would never get there but on day 30, when the instructers had been gliding into handstand many days in a row with complete ease,  I managed to get there and hold it for a moment.

Now only a week later, I can get there with little effort. I’m still working with the wall but one step at a time.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
 – Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

The Moral of the story is not that I’m great because I learned to do a handstand, the moral of the story is that I wanted to do a handstand. I doubted myself but tried anyway.

The person who says it is impossible should not interrupt the one doing it

Honestly, the belief did not come until I actually got to where I wanted to go but I did not give up. If you can’t break through the doubt you can ignore it. Keep going, you will get there, no matter what it is, push through, work, practise, every day.

Every time you miss that bullseye it is taking you a step closer to your goal. Every time you miss it is one less time you will miss. It’s one more practise round crossed off your list and one step closer to your destination.

Why do we fall?

So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up

– Batman Begins

Whatever it is you are working on it, keep going.

Peace,

George

Finding Your Passion

Are you one of those people who knew what they wanted to do from the age of 5 and pursued it? Have you always known that one day your passion would become your work or vice versa? I always admired people who knew very early on what they were born to do. For the majority of my life, I had no clue, I wanted to be & do everything. I could imagine myself in every job but just couldn’t figure out that one job that I would LOVE to work at for the rest of my life.

Up until recently (30ish years old) I had no clue but now after many years of study, working and travel I believe I have found my calling. Practising yoga has changed both myself & my husband’s lives. If we could teach full time and earn a living from it this would be our full-time careers but alas that is not possible for us right now. I am not saying we will never do it, it’s just we need to put those dreams & aspirations a little further forward in the future.

Why do I say this? Because we are practical people. We both have steady jobs, a daughter and a lovely lifestyle which we are happy with. We need to invest more time, money and education into our dream before getting there. We are on the path but just at the beginning, we are determined to make our dream a reality but slow & steady wins the race.

We both love teaching & are passionate about the yoga practice. We love the physical aspect of the practice but more so the study & personal reflections it involves. To us, yoga is a way of life, a set of guidelines to live our most authentic & happiest of lives. It has helped us simplify our life and in turn, has created a life which we both feel content & happy no matter what stage we are at. We love the idea of aiming to be the best versions of ourselves & to not let negative emotional or mental boundaries get in our way. We are realists and know that to get to work in an area you are passionate about requires hard work & planning. We are still at this stage but each day we work towards our long-term goal.

Finding our passions didn’t just come to us, we had to search, reflect and work damn hard to be able to find our passions. George had always thought of writing but never thought it was feasible or even possible to ever do that until one day he decided he would write. He made time to write each day. Starting with short stories, which lead to larger stories which lead to a novel…. then another novel. He didn’t give up his day job or run away to some fancy retreat to write, he got up earlier in the morning, he stopped watching TV and he wrote instead. His first novel was accepted by a publishing house in NY city and goes to print this month. Even if it doesn’t sell it’s a huge achievement regardless.

I always wanted to know how to cook but never truly gave myself the time to do so. Then one day I decided to start a blog about cooking (private account), I cooked about 2-3 meals each week at the beginning and documented how they went on my personal blog. I took a vegan cooking course; I began posting meals on Instagram & Facebook. I love cooking and baking and have made time to work on this passion. Hopefully, someday I can combine yoga & cooking and live the dream. Every day gets us closer.

We may not have known our true passions when we were young but now, we do. It took us several years of trying lots of different interests, self-exploration & reflection to find our passions. So if you are thinking “I have no passion”, or you don’t know what you would love to do in your spare time, I say go try anything and keep trying different activities, crafts, courses etc. until you find something you want to work on. Who knows eventually that something may lead to a passion you may never want to stop. Go out there and try.

 

Thanks so much,

Chat soon,

Theresa xxx

My Mindset When I Am Guiding A Yoga Class

I’ve been teaching yoga for a couple of years now. It is only in the last few weeks that I notice my head goes to a different place when I teach.

Maybe it’s like when someone gets in the zone, I don’t know, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in “the zone.”

I find as I walk through the pillars of people as they take the postures I offer, I look, really look at them. The judgement disappears from my mind. It is just me and the practice. There are no assumptions, no background chatter, no fluff spinning around my mind.

It’s a very meditative experience, there is no room for anything else. It is the one chance in the week I get to really focus.

I am fully there, with strength. A different commitment takes over and I am filled with a determination, a drive to give this class my best.

There is neither time nor space for nerves, nor is it necessary if I am properly prepared. I am doing an injustice to those who have shown up if I am not prepared. They have shown up, expecting to have a qualified teacher who can lead them through the class with confidence and purpose.

There is only the now. No past regret, no future indecision, just now. That now is filled with the breath. I stop and ask all of us to listen to the breath. The breath is the most beautiful thing when you teach a yoga class.

There is also great strength in the moment, the strength of the people who have come to class, mental strength which is being carved through a tough rock of turmoil with a blade of calm as I wander through the students standing strong in a balance posture like a great statue in tribute to a long-gone hero.

I don’t really agree with the term “yoga teacher”. We are not actually teaching anything. Yes, we ensure our students are safe and will not harm their bodies but I like to think that we are guides rather than teachers. I don’t have any great wisdom to offer, in fact, I learn through the wisdom and humility of those who I guide through the yoga practice.

If I am the one guiding the class, all that means is that it’s my voice in the room. I have to remind myself that it is not my class, the class is for those who attend. I need to drop the ego and put out what is needed, not what I want to put out.

It is my responsibility as the voice in the room to put out positive energy, even when I struggle. I need to offer a class that serves the people who attend and let go of how I like to practise and serve those who come to be served.

I find it difficult at the end of class to really and truly express the gratitude I feel towards those who attend. It is truly humbling to be given the chance to offer something that helps others and to be enabled to express myself through a practice that has helped me so much through life.

Thank you.

Peace,

George

PS. Theresa and Naoise return from the old country today so we will try to get back to weekly log posts.

Thank you all for reading.

My Current Yoga & Meditation Routine: How it has Changed Since Baby

Before our pregnancy I had a regular yoga practice, averaging between 3-4 classes per week. Mornings would always begin with a meditation session and some light stretches before breakfast. How does this compare to my current routine? It simply doesn’t. I have not been attending any yoga classes and a regular meditation time in the morning is not possible at this stage of my baby’s life. Do I miss yoga and a regular meditation practice, yes, so much.

My body is so tight, especially around the neck & shoulders. They are working hard holding the baby and breastfeeding. I miss the regular morning meditation because I love routine and this practice helped ground me every morning before I would start my day. My mornings start very different now and will remain this way for the next few months. I wake at 5:30 am to feed baby and then we get up. I make the bed, open the windows and curtains (even when dark outside), wash my face with a warm face cloth and prepare breakfast. This is the new routine and has been for months. Baby then naps on me for about 2 hours while I read and listen to audiobooks. I have to say the mornings are one of my favourite parts of my day. However, I don’t get time to sit undisturbed in a seated position to meditate or stretch.

Moving forward I want to incorporate meditation in my routine, I plan to fit it in just before I start reading. I am not in a seated position or lying down…my posture is terrible, to be honest. However, I’m still and I won’t be disturbed, I don’t have to worry about baby as she is sleeping on me. I have started a 40-day meditation challenge. I don’t want to use the excuse of not having time for it, which is kind of true. I don’t have time to sit undisturbed on a cushion for 20 minutes ever. However, if I just alter my way of thinking and use my downtime in the morning while baby naps on me it will work just fine.

The above picture is how I meditate now, noise-cancelling headphones, baby & me

When our baby was a couple of months old, I got to go to 6:00 pm yoga on a Wednesday however her schedule has changed and she is going to bed earlier. I cannot make the 6 pm classes anymore. There are no classes that fit my schedule right now. Therefore, I am not attending any yoga classes. Even though I miss my practice so much, I know this is just temporary and I will be back in no time. I’m trying to be easy on myself as there is no rush to have my life back to the way it was, it may never go back but I don’t want to add stress just to say “I’m back to yoga”, my baby needs me more right now.

The one thing I look forward to every day is my walk. Around 11 am each day we go for a walk regardless of the weather. This is my new meditation. I usually walk by myself while babe sleeps in stroller. I find the fresh air & movement so calming. I use this time to think and let my mind wander. It is a stress-free environment once the baby falls asleep. I just love walking under the trees or by the beach. Sometimes I’ll buy a tea and a treat. This is me time. I’m grateful for it every day.

I suppose what I am trying to express is that I realise I am not practising yoga; I miss it but I am giving myself a break and not stressing over it as I know it is temporary. It may be another 6 months or a year before I get my practice back but that’s ok. I believe we can be very hard on ourselves. We try and be everything at once when we should just be. We should slow everything down, free up our schedules as much as possible to have time to ourselves. Go for long walks while baby is asleep in the stroller, when baby naps don’t feel bad you have spent 2 hours reading and resting.

Yoga will be there for me when it is time to go back. In the meantime, to help with my tight body I have booked monthly massages and I want to fit in 10min of stretches a day even if I have to do them with baby on the floor. My meditation will hopefully get back to a daily practice.

 

Thanks, so much for reading,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa

 

Yoga Teacher Training – One Year (ish) After

It is approximately 15 months since I completed my yoga teacher training at Semperviva.

Hopefully, this blog can be of some help or interest to someone who has recently completed their teacher training or is planning to.

I started out after graduating in June 2018 teaching free classes to my friends. I had no experience as a yoga teacher so I wasn’t comfortable teaching a public class without experience. The great thing about the summer in Vancouver is the weather, I had groups ranging from one to five on the beach for around three months and played around with different classes and teaching styles, discreetly (with the student’s knowledge) videotaping myself and recording the classes as I went.

One advantage I had was completing the training with my wife, Theresa. We could practise with each other and we took turns in teaching classes to each other once a week. Practise, practise, practise. Even if you don’t have a partner or close friend completing the training with you, professional life (in Vancouver especially) is all about networking so use the contacts you make during YTT to practise.

I applied to one studio just after completing the training but it was probably wishful thinking that they would hire a recent graduate with no teaching experience. I didn’t hear back from them.

It was shortly after the YTT with a few informal classes under my belt that I applied to volunteer at the YMCA. It seems that most studios are looking to hire teachers with at least two years experience so I think it is difficult to get that experience as a paid teacher. YMCA is located Downtown on Burrard and Nelson. They are always looking for substitute teachers or at least they were a year ago. I had to jump through a few hoops with references, police check, first aid certification but it’s worth it. It’s a great place to teach yoga.

It is voluntary, YMCA is a charity but you get free access to great facilities including a gym, pool and group classes. More importantly, you get to teach yoga. Some of the evening classes are quite intimidating with up to forty people. You can read about my first class here if you are interested.

I was asked by the coordinator to take a few classes and connect with one of the regular teachers as a mentor before I subbed classes. I was lucky and was offered a regular class almost immediately on Thursday mornings at 7 am. Perfect for me, giving me enough time to get to work in East Van after. I think one of the reasons I was given a regular spot so quickly was that I was willing to take an early morning. Try to be flexible with your time – it will work to your advantage.

Things started slow, my first substitute class was packed but my first regular class had only 2 people (one of them was my brother) so that was disheartening. One of the main things I learned throughout the past year is not to be disheartened. As a teacher, I read too much into class sizes and peoples reactions during class. It means nothing about you. I once had a man walk out during the middle of my class, immediately I assumed I was offering a crap class and he had left in disgust but I was wrong. He came back in a few minutes after using the washroom or whatever he needed to do.

Eventually, my regular class size began to grow from two to five up to a steady class of between eight and twelve. I got to know the regulars names and got to a stage after about 7 months where I was confident in the classed I was offering and was sure that the regulars who attended enjoyed them. If somebody didn’t enjoy it then it wasn’t for them, which is great. Different teachers and different styles of teaching will work for different people.

So, life went on at the YMCA and I continued to teach hatha yoga every Thursday morning to a growing group of regulars who I ended up getting to know and becoming friends with. YMCA is a great place to teach if you are willing to offer your time unpaid and I highly recommend that you do. You won’t get a paid teaching job without experience and you’ll probably (unless your the absolute bees knees).

I learned a lot during my regular classes. If I could share just one thing it would be to be yourself. let your personality shine through in class. some people will like it and some people will not. Some people like my classes, music, personality and style of teaching and some did not. It does not matter, those who do not like your classes will find a class they enjoy and move on. That’s exactly what we want for our students.

Learn from your classes also, after each class I make a brief recording of who was there and what went well and what didn’t go so well. I listen to those recordings every so often so I know where I am at. It is also a nice way to help you remember the names of the students who attend your class. The common courtesy of remembering somebody’s name goes a long way. Remember, even if you are volunteering your time it is still a job and you are building the foundations of your future career. We need strong foundations. Start as you mean to continue.

After about 9 months I thought the time was right to apply for some auditions. I kept my digital eyes and ears open on the social media and also visit some different studios on my lunch break.

My first audition was with The Hive climbing gym in North Vancouver. They weren’t keen on anybody with less than 2 years experience applying but included me because I have a membership there. It was fun. I was disappointed to find I was the only male teacher auditioning, I think there is a sad lack of male interest in yoga. The audition was tricky. We had to teach a combined class so we couldn’t prepare as we had no knowledge of what the predecessor might offer. It went great or at least I thought it did but I didn’t get it. Regardless it didn’t matter. I am a firm believer that auditions or interviews, no matter what the profession is essential.

I came out happy, I couldn’t have done any better nor would I have done anything different but it was great to get some feedback afterwards.

As I mentioned above I dropped into a few Yoga studios in person to see if they were hiring. Just Yoga is close to my workplace and I got chatting to the manager who is Irish. It’s such a zen space and one of the nicest yoga studios I have been to in Vancouver.

the Audition at Just Yoga was a 20 minute (If memory serves me) class. Again I was the only male to audition, I don’t know if that is typical but it probably leaves male teachers with somewhat of an advantage. I was lucky enough again that a regular class came up just after I subbed my first class and I was offered the Vinyasa power class every Saturday morning from 10:45 to 12:00. So far I really love teaching this class and have inherited a bunch of great regulars from the previous teacher.

I feel it is important to recognise your limits so reluctantly I decided to give up my regular spot at YMCA after a year. Two classes, a full-time job and a newborn baby were a little bit too much so I am just loving teaching my Saturday morning class at Just Yoga.

Apart from teaching it is so important whether you are a civil engineer (my day job) or yoga teacher to keep up professional development. I read as much as I possibly can on Yoga for example:

Your Body, Your Yoga

Bhagavad Gita

Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

Meditations From The Mat

The Lost Teachings of Yoga

Getting Unstuck

I also regularly read articles on Yoga Journal.

Over the last year, I have taken 2 courses with Semperviva (where I completed my 200 hr YTT). A 16-hour mentorship class with Julia Doty on accessible yoga and a 40-hour Vinyasa module with Clara Roberts Oss. Both were amazing, both teachers are a wealth of knowledge. I talk to and ask teachers for advice as much as possible (they are probably tired of me at this stage) and I take classes with as many different teachers as possible, though my time is limited.

I hope this was useful to any of you who have just completed teacher training or are thinking of completing it. I am far from an expert on this subject but if you do have any questions send me a message on Facebook. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

If you enjoyed this blog or found it useful, please share it and have a read of some of our other blogs.

Peace,

George

If you are interested in reading more about Back2basicslivings teacher training journey see below:

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-1-help-make-classes-more-accessible-to-everyone

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-2-making-postures-more-accessible-to-students

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

how-to-plan-a-yoga-sequence-where-to-look-for-inspiration

top-5-tips-yoga-as-public-speaking

yoga-at-sunrise

its-not-about-touching-your-toes

my-first-group-yoga-class