Long time no post…

I’ve been doing a lot of subbing the past few weeks as you can see from my schedule. I subbed (twice) at Garden State Yoga (:)) which went well enough for them to allow me to teach a steady Thursday class at 4:30. I am very fortunate to be able to teach there as well… when it comes to yoga community I have yet to be at a studio that has a better one. A huge part of yoga is community, and in fact that is probably one of the main parts of yoga that has helped me in recovery so much.

I am also going to start teaching a beginners’ class in Clifton, NJ on Thursday nights at 8:00pm.

The past week I’ve been really noticing how different aspects of my practice on the mat are being carried into other areas of my life… in particular stress management, patience, and breathing. For example, I took the GRE’s this past Monday (and did well… thank God)… and was a nervous wreck before hand. I really really tried hard to stay positive though, telling myself things such as “You are prepared and will do well” rather than “Please just let me do well.” I’ve found it’s more effective to be proactive than giving up our fate to the universe which certainly has more important things to focus on than my GRE score.

Anyway, the day before the GRE’s I was frantically looking for some sort of restorative class for either that night or the morning of but couldn’t really find one. After talking to my friend and fellow yoga instructor I decided that the best path for me would be doing my own practice before the exam. So I went on the Yoga Journal website and found poses that were good for stress and anxiety relief and worked up a sequence for myself. It was basically sun salutations (which really do wake you up extremely well) and a lot of back bends. Afterwards I sat down and did an 8 minute meditation using the mantra “I am prepared, I will do well.” I think the meditation did work as it was supposed to. It sort of helped my thought process and I think helped me internalize more positivity. I actually really do enjoy the feeling post-meditation and just need to get myself into a steady habit of doing it. You’re supposed to, if you can, meditate for the same timeditation muralme every day, so I just need to pick a time and make it happen. I just finished decorating my bedroom though and I put up a meditation mural on the East wall of my bedroom so perhaps I can start now. I want to get a little table though to set up somewhat of an alter.

I also decided that I want to start running again. I’ve always been a pretty bad runner I suppose. It’s not that my body can’t handle it, because I am definitely in shape, but I have such a hard time breathing! I used to blame it on exercise-induced asthma which I was diagnosed with when I was a child, but I don’t think I actually have it. So yesterday I went running and really focused on doing yoga breathing while running. I don’t know the mechanics of running or how you are technically supposed to breath, but I found that breathing in and out of the nose at an even pace definitely helps me go for longer. I also really worked on forcing myself to breath from my diaphragm (the stomach) rather than the upper chest and that also seemed to help. Needless to say I ran 2.5 miles without stopping which for me is awesome since I haven’t really run since October when I hurt myself doing so.

Other than all of that the end of the summer has been sort of slow I suppose… nothing particularly enlightening to discuss. I’ve basically just been letting the benefits of having a good community of friends and support sink in because it’s something I feel I’ve been missing out on for a very long time. It’s hard to be a good friend to others, no matter how much you want to be, when you are being a good friend to an eating disorder. I’ve found myself saying “I had an eating disorder” past tense recently which sort of scares me in a good way… facing your fears is another part of yoga that I am starting to integrate into my life… Embracing the unknown with curiousity rather than running from it.

So the past week I’ve been teaching and learning a lot. It was sort of like a crash course in teaching, as for me at least, and I think for most people, the best way to learn is by doing. Last Tuesday I taught my regular class at my internship and it was so difficult to teach because everything seemed to just be going wrong that day. First my iPod didn’t work, then the speakers didn’t work, then a therapist told 2 boys they could take the class, and then there was a huge fight outside of the yoga room that I had to break up. I decided that I would change the class and make it solely relaxation for that night since that is what the girls clearly needed, but it took so much out of me!

That aside, I have taught a class every day for the past four days. Two at the Secaucus Recreation Center, one at the Caldwell Community Center, and the regular one at the rehab. I’ve been trying to practice the sequence that I want to do for my Sunday class at Garden State Yoga (AH!) but I’ve had to modify it slightly each time. Sunday’s class was a more gentle class and I thought it went pretty well, the ladies seemed to really like it, one of them asked me for my card (which I don’t have) and a few of them showed up for my class there this morning as well. Monday morning I taught a class at the Caldwell Community Center and it was also sort of difficult for me because I had such a broad range of people there. Some older women, some younger women, and one who I know also goes to Garden State and could clearly do an advanced class. I ended up practicing my sequence for Sunday, but I think it was probably too hard for the class. It was kind of good that I did it though because I realized it’s too long and that I have to take some things out of it. Danielle said that that is a reason that teaching at community centers and the YMCA is so difficult – you never really know who is going to show up. You might have an awesome power vinyasa class planned and find out every person in class has never done yoga before and you have to change everything…

Which leads me to the lesson I learned from that. Up until yesterday I had been planning my classes out SO carefully… literally writing pose for pose, which I thought was being a good novice teacher. But I think it was sort of holding me back and making it harder for me to simply feel what the class could and could not do. When you plan something out so carefully and then something doesn’t go as planned, it seems like everything else gets messed up as well… suddenly everything else is pushed off or goes out of order, and I know for me I get flustered. So instead I’m trying to see the “big picture” I guess you could say and instead of planning a class out pose for pose, I’m starting with a general idea of what I want to do and what I want to work on, and going from there. So, for instance, Sunday I’m planning a class around loosening the shoulders. I got rid of my step by step plan and decided that there are 3 main things I want to do, and I’ll go with the flow sort of for the rest of the class. Instead of devoting 1 minute to this and 1 minute to that I’m going to break the class into bigger chunks – 15 minutes for stretching and sun salutations, 10 minutes for warriors, 10 minutes for a different standing sequence, and the rest on the floor. I tried that last night and this morning and it worked out better for me. It made it easier for me to walk around and personalize the class more instead of getting lost in my own head.

I’m definitely able to see how this yoga lesson, like so many others, can be taken off the mat and applied to my life. I’ve always sort of been a control freak… very meticulous and detail oriented, always afraid that if I leave something to spontaneity or if I do just ride the flow of whatever is going on, that I’ll make a mistake… but you miss so much only concentrating on the minute details of life. If you concentrate on a single blade of grass you miss the beauty of the whole field, if you focus on the one mistake you made for the day you miss all of the positive things that happened the rest of the day.

It relates a lot to anorexia as well. Planning meal for meal, calorie for calorie, what you will take in and what you will put out, playing the never ending number game with your food and your weight and the size of your jeans. Being forever consumed in all of those little, completely unnecessary details, causes you to miss out on everything else life has to offer – and actually usually, though possibly unconsciously, that’s the point. If you count the minutes between meals you don’t have to focus on whatever bigger things are causing you pain… but you are also missing opportunities to help yourself and recover. I spent a lot of time sad and lonely wondering why I had such a hard time relating to people and forming connections that I so wanted and needed and I was unable at the time to realize the reason I didn’t have all of that was because of the attention I was giving to my weight. It’s a vicious downward spiral. However breathing and taking a step back to see the big picture of what life actually is beyond the little details, dealing with the bad times but also fully embracing and acknowledging the good times and your successes and good luck, can really shift a person’s perspective on what life is and could be and what is actually important. It definitely takes practice and work, just like yoga, but speaking first hand as someone still definitely working on it but that has come so far, it’s worth it.

When I was doing my teacher training at Inner Light Yoga Center my instructor was simultaneously taking a year-long immersion in a type of yoga called anusara. I learned a bit about it through the teacher training and it seems like something I would really enjoy, though I haven’t actually gotten to an anusara class yet. There is a studio I’ve heard good things about only about a five minute walk from my house (literally) but still I haven’t found the time. Soon I will.  One of the books I’m “reading” is called “Yoga from the Inside Out” and it is a book about body image and yoga from the perspective of a student of anusara.

Anyway, anusara yoga is set in alignment and it translates to “following your heart.” In my yoga class tonight the instructor reminded us of the 3 “A’s” of anusara yoga, action, alignment, and attitude and this reminded me of a class I took yesterday at the studio. I was watching a new student at the studio taking a class because I was on the mat behind her. You could visibly see her frustration. After class she told me that in one of the poses she was actually crying because it hurt so bad… here is what I want you all to know, straight from a novice teacher.

If you are ever in a yoga pose and it hurts so much that it brings you to tears you need to back off. A certain amount of pain is good, and you know the kind of pain I mean. The kind that has you saying, “Oh this hurts, but I like it.” If you like the type of pain that brings you to tears you are truely a masochist and need to come see me in 3423 years when I finally have my doctorate in psychology. Anyway, all joking aside, I’ve been told a few things by some instructors that I think are important to know and that I’d like to share.

First, in a yoga class you shouldn’t give 100% of your energy all of the time because it is not realistic. Seth at Garden State Yoga says that you should be giving about 85% percent during the class and that sometimes that percent goess up if you are really feeling it, and at other times it goes down, but yoga is hard and if you push yourself the entire way you are going to burn out. This is something I’m constantly working on and in a workshop was actually told to come off of my ego and take a break. A lot of peopel are ego driven and don’t want to back off, as if they have something to prove. However, it says a lot if what you prove to yourself is that you can back off, that you know when to exert and when to relax, that you can respect your body enough to listen to it.

Second, and related, Danielle has said often that you should push yourself to your optimum and not your maximum. Again, when you push yourself so hard you have nowhere to go but down.

The main thing that watching this student reminded me of, which Danielle also talks about, is that you take the lessons you learn on the mat off the mat with you, and vice versa. If you are pushing yourself to tears on a yoga mat chances are you push yourself that hard in other areas of your life and that is probably detrimental and exhausting. If you fall out of a yoga pose and get angry at yourself, or give up and don’t try to get back into it, chances are that happens to you in other areas of your life as well. If you don’t reach your own expectations, if you don’t get the promotion, if you literally fall… do you automatically judge yourself? Do you live by extremes and throw in the towel? Or, when you fall out of a pose in yoga do you laugh at yourself? I’ve often heard “it’s only yoga” and realistically it’s only life and it should not be taken so seriously. You miss a lot when you take yourself too seriously and you stifle the growing process. For a child to grow they need to be given room for error and to learn from mistakes otherwise they live in constant fear of failure… it would do us all well to remember that when dealing with ourselves and our inner children on the mat and off.

So the first Sunday of every month Garden State Yoga has a class called “Vinyasa Vibes” where they bring in musician Scott E. Moore to play the guitar while we do a warm restorative flow class. I think I’ve been to four of them since my time at Garden State and tonight’s so far was my favorite. I’m such an intense person that restorative classes are really good for me, and though they are hard for me and I don’t necessarily enjoy most of them, they are necessary. It’s important to be able to relax and appreciate your body and your mind and slowing down is hard for a lot of people. Vinyasa Vibes however is never difficult for me because it is slow without being boring and therefore my mind doesn’ wander… as much.

However, tonight my mind was wandering during savasana (I try so hard to control it most of the time with the mantra meditation I posted about previously) and I just let it without trying to control it and I’m happy I did. You know that feeling you get when something really touches you and you sort of feel like you want to cry, but you don’t actually cry? That’s sort of how I felt during savasana. The love in the room for each other, for ourselves individually, for the studio, and for the practice of yoga in general, was almost palpable; I could feel it and it was overwhelming. It basically reinforced why I love it so much and why I want to teach it.

I’ve spent most of my life really feeling terrible in many respects. I guess it’s sort of a vicious cycle. People treated me badly so I felt bad and I treated myself badly and because I didn’t like myself I tried to overcompensate by being too giving and too sensitive which just set me up to be treated badly and walked all over, thus fueling the cycle. This past year, or I guess more accurately these past five months, have really changed my perspective on life and on people. I used to be a misanthrope (GRE WORD), my motto was “I hate people”…seriously… and honestly I’ve heard many other people say that too. But you get what you give; the energy I put out there was simply getting returned to me. I’ve been working so hard on myself this past year and really making a huge effort to be positive about life and people and it is getting returned to me in huge ways.

There are four paths to yoga… raja, jnana, bhakti, and karma. Karma yoga is the yoga of service or action and it is the path of yoga that teaches you to be mindful and thankful in all that you do. It’s sort of the yoga of selflessness I suppose – doing things without the expectation for being repayed. At Garden State I’m a ‘karma yogi” meaning I help keep the studio in order in exchange for yoga, so I suppose it isn’t true karma yoga. That said, for me it is. I do it because I love doing it and I am so thankful that I get to do it and be a part of such a special place and that I’ve gotten to know such amazing people. Therefore by giving of myself to the studio and by treating myself better through yoga I have received friendship, happiness, and a sense of security that I have never felt.

When you can find people who share the same interests as you, whose lives have been affected in similar ways, there is an underlying connection there that needs no words. Yoga is about so much more than a tight body – it’s about health, peace, and community. It’s about allowing yourself to feel good and be calm and relaxed. I want to be able to share with people that side of yoga that you don’t hear about as often, that doesn’t get written about in magazines (unless it’s a yoga magazine) and doesn’t get featured on entertainment TV. The side of yoga that can be so healing and so life changing. Yoga literally helped to save my life, it has helped so many others, and it can help even more – I’ve seen it and I truely believe it.

I think this post was sort of a disconnected tangent – but, I wrote it with feeling – with the main point being that tonight’s class reinforced why I want to teach yoga. I think it’s important to remind yourself of why you want to achieve your goals, why you are passionate about certain things, so that you have something to fall back on when things get hard and the motivation starts to slip.

I don’t really have anything inspirational and spiritual to write I suppose. The last few days have been crazy busy with things other than yoga… unfortunately.

Today during my lunch break I had to call the yoga alliance to see if they had processed my RYT application yet. When you get trained to be a yoga teacher you can register with the yoga alliance and you get a card and everything… really as long as you’ve graduated from a registered school it’s not much of an approval process as long as you pay their fees. That said, a lot of gyms and studios want to see that you have registered with RYT and won’t hire you without it. I wanted to call to see if there was anything they could send me in the e-mail to show that I submitted my application (on July 2) but they said that if I haven’t received an e-mail yet it means they haven’t even gotten to my application. June and July tend to be busier times of the year because a lot of a yoga schools have their graduations. So… I practiced patience, though I hung up a little too soon and the guy was still talking – but that was completely unintentional. I have a bad habit of hanging up when I think the conversation is over without saying goodbye. Hopefully the fax confirmation will be enough to prove that I actually registered.

This all said I was talking to one of my friends and the owner of the yoga studio I work at about whether or not I should let my students know that I have virtually no experience teaching yoga, and she said: ‘“Teacher Training” is a piece of paper. Teaching comes from a place much deeper than that.”‘ And she is so correct… aren’t yogis brilliant in such a simple way?

After I called the alliance I called the yoga insurance company to see what’s going on with that application. They were slightly more helpful and I got my certificate of liability. This you need if you are subbing a lot, doing individual lessons, or working at places that don’t cover you with their insurance. I mainly got it because I want to start volunteering for an organization called Kula for Karma. Definately check out their website… I’m going to link it in the side bar. They bring yoga to people who otherwise may never find the practice.

Hmm… other than that I’ve been getting calls to sub, so I’ll be subbing a lot in August. I’m going to start a page on this that lets you all know my schedule. Most exciting however is that on August 16th I’ll be subbing the community class at Garden State Yoga and am SO excited about it… and very nervous at the same time. Much more to come on that as the days get closer 🙂

I suppose to leave you with something semi-inspirational I’ll leave you with a quote: “Courage cannot exist in isolation. Just as a flower needs sun, air, soil, and water to bloom, your courage depends on your interdependence with people and things. You must contemplate deeply to understand that when you do what is possible, you are not in a free fall, but are cradled by your interdependence with the world around you”

This quote speaks to me now as I face my anxieties and fears about starting my journey of teaching yoga. It has spoken to me in the past because I know for me recovery often feels like a free fall… like I am taking this leap of faith that no one understands and with no one to catch me. However, what this quote is saying is that a free fall is when you do attempt something that is impossible… Recovery is not impossible. It may feel like a free fall, but it is not because you are cradled by the support of others who have jumped and landed OK. What I’m beginning to learn however, which I probably wouldn’t have written a month or so ago, is that not only are you cradled by those who have come before you, but you are supported by those who may never fully understand, but support you whole-heartedly nonetheless.

Last week I ordered the book “A Path With Heart” by Jack Kornfield, after my yoga mentor said that I should read it. It is described as an “important book written on meditation, the process of inner transformation, and the integration of spiritual practice into our American way of life.” I’m always up for reading things that will further my knowledge of myself and yoga… though I am currently working on about 3 of such books: “Meditations from the Mat,” “Yoga from the inside out,” and “Happy Yoga.” Plus, I’m re-reading “Appetites” which is perhaps the only memoir of an anorexic I have read that goes much further than merely appetite for food. So, we’ll see how I do with this book as well.

I definately think that I should read it though. Meditation has never come easy to me, which I don’t think is unusual. I suppose I could blame it on the fact that when I took a quiz in my teacher training about which dosha I was, it said I was vata. My elements are space and air and supposedly I am often anxious and find it difficult to sit still and settle down. Whenever I try meditating I become very aware of my body. My muscles and bones start to ache and I get itchy and my back starts to hurt.

However, meditation is an extremely important part of yoga. In fact what most westerners consider to be yoga (poses to tone the buns and thighs) is merely one limb of the 8 limbs of yoga. Meditation is encompassed in the higher limbs and these poses are meant to move the body in specific ways to make it easier to sit in meditation; it’s easier to sit after you’ve moved.

There are many different techniques to assist in meditation. Some people use mala beads, others mala beads in conjuction with a mantra (aka japa). Some simply use breath. A few months ago I decided to try to find a mantra that I related to that I could repeat when I attempted to meditate. The one I ended up choosing was the mantra of green tara… and this is where the username “Om tare” comes from.

“Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha” is the mantra. The first thing that drew me to it was that Green Tara is a female, and that spoke to the feminist in me. “Tare Tuttare Ture” is a play on Tara’s name and it is supposed to represent three levels of salvation. Tara protects us against ordinary wordly dangers and spiritual dangers which cause individual suffering and she also protects us from narrowmindedness by leading us to use these two salvations to help save others.

It took me a while to figure out how to say this at the same time that I worked on breathing so that I didn’t feel like I was rushing. However I then read an article on Ajapa-Japa meditation, which means you constantly repeat the mantra without paying particular attention to how it works with the breath, which is supposed to aid in concentration as it doesn’t allow for time to think of other things… so I tend to do that, though I find regular japa meditation more relaxing.

The only other meditation I found that worked for me was trataka, or eye cleansing. What we did was sit in a dark room with a candle about 6 inches from our eyes and stared at it until our eyes watered (the cleansing part). We then closed our eyes and it was really interesting. You know when you look at fireworks and then close your eyes and can still see the fireworks? That’s essentially what happened. When you close your eyes you still see the candle and so it gives you a visual focus, right where your third eye would be, even though your eyes are still closed. I thought it was pretty cool.

So there is a lot I feel like I could write about in the first post. For example, how yoga helped my eating disorder, or what exactly my user name “Om Tare” comes from, or just a history of myself. I’ve decided to leave the user name to a later post… like tomorrow… and just discuss briefly where the concept of this all came from.

I was sick with anorexia for four years. I use the term “was” sort of loosely, because I am not fully recovered, if one can ever be truely fully recovered. But where I am now compared to where I was just a little over a year ago, and actually even only about 6 months ago, is so far. I won’t get into what started it, or what has maintained it, but the things I attribute to what has been helping me beat it are a good therapist, a good nutritionist, good friends, and a lot of yoga.

I started doing yoga before I started recovering. I was focusing on Bikram Yoga and did it for a number of reasons. The first, an eating disordered reason, was that I heard it burned a lot of calories. The second was that I loved seeing how I progressed and got better with practice. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. After starting my recovery I changed from bikram yoga to focusing more on vinyasa yoga. I started doing yoga in recovery because it was a little bit of activity, which made me feel good, and wasn’t excessive. It was good for me to be able to go to a class, have it end, and then be done exercising.

That is why I started. However, what has maintained my practice of yoga goes way beyond the physical. I found the spiritual practice of yoga to be the most beneficial aspect of it. I loved when my instructors would say, “Approach each class as if you have never done yoga before.” Learning to not judge my practice was hard for me, but I’m getting better at it. My instructor always tells me not to choose favorite poses because one day you might be able to go far into a pose, and the next you might not. I love the idea of listening to my body and being OK with where it is comfortable going every day. I also like the concentration it takes. When I am balancing in warrior 3, or in forearm stand, it is not possible to be thinking about anything else, including what I have eaten, what I weigh, or even how well I am doing in the pose.

I’m a perfectionist and like to push myself way too hard and so when one of my instructors tells me to never push myself beyond being able to breathe comfortably it feels so strange, and yet comfortable. I also take myself too seriously sometimes, and a lot of times I hear instructors say “it’s only yoga.” When you fall, laugh at yourself and try again. Finally, I’m not religious at all, however feel like I am spiritual. I feel like I’m looking for something to believe in, and I want that something to be myself. You know how in AA they refer to your “higher power?” Well, I feel like my higher power is myself the best it can be… reaching Samadhi… which most likely will not happen in this lifetime.

Through yoga I’ve learned to respect my body for what it can do for me and not how it looks. Yoga is not easy and it takes more than natural flexibility. It takes concentration, muscular strength, balance, and patience, among so many other things. Being able to do a pose that at one point I was unable to do feels like a huge accomplishment, and is perhaps the only accomplishment that can mirror the feeling of losing a pound or two.

I got certified to be a yoga instructor because I hope to focus my school studies on yoga and recovery from addictions and eating disorders. I have to admit, I still have trouble consistently applying the principles of yoga to my everyday life. However, yoga for me has been so beneficial.

Girls with eating disorders have such a severe disconnection between their minds and bodies and yoga is all about forging that connection; yoga actually means “yuj” or “union.” It’s all about not pushing your body further than its willing to go on any given day and accepting that every day, every minute, your body is different and that that is OK. It’s about not judging your abilities. Yoga studios have no mirrors in them because its about how you feel and not how you look. You know you are in the right pose or position based on how your body aligns and its something that just clicks. I feel like in yoga I have really found something that is going to be a key player in me fully recovering. You need to replace addictive behaviors with new things. Relationships are one thing necessary to replace them… but I think yoga is my other. It is my way to foster my relationship with myself.

It’s important to dive deep within ourselves to find the root of our problems. The only way to really get over things is to get them at the root. The bad things are like weeds… if you don’t dig up the roots of the weeds the weeds just keep growing. You can cut them at the surface, but they will grow back.

For recovery we really need to learn about ourselves and our disorder and where it comes from because it comes from somewhere. It might be painful and scary and it might be easier to just cut them at the surface and skim the top… but they’ll come back. Do the hard work to make sure they don’t come back. Yoga forces you to dive deep.

My life was changed by yoga about a year ago when it became the main catalyst for me to overcome anorexia. Ever since I have been practicing daily and graduated a 200 hour teacher training one month ago. I am constantly learning about yoga and about myself in an attempt to spread the benefits of such a holistic practice.