Tuesday, February 23, 2016

From Trainee to Teacher

By this time next month, I'll be a certified yoga teacher. Or an RYT-200, if you prefer. My YTT is almost done, and this is the last time I'll write a Training for Tuesday post as a technical trainee. It's, of course, time for me to get over-emotional and introspective about the last 13 weeks.
I've been really fortunate to have earned the trust and respect of my training instructor, Kelly, to already have begun teaching in the studio I practice and train in. I don't take that practical experience for granted, but I know that I would never, ever have felt prepared to take on teaching without everything I've learned and experienced throughout training, even if I was just over two months in when I got the call to head up my own regular class.

I shared my journey to the mat, on the mat, and to training here, so I won't rehash it all. And I've been sharing my weekly YTT reflections and experiences along with my practice notes here, so I'll spare you the nitty gritty. But here in week 14, with everything but two weeks of practice teaching in YTT remaining—during one of which I'll simply be a student to my fellow trainees—I have to feel grateful for the end being so close but already so nostalgic for the months just past, and take a look back in true blogger fashion.

On the one hand, it feels like we started just yesterday. I remember the first day of training, walking into Kelly's busy Sunday morning class for our initial contact hours with her before we headed into the training room. I remember rolling out my mat in the back of the room—I didn't know yet how crowded Kelly's classes would get, or how I would need to arrive 30 minutes early to get better real estate on the floor—next to a woman who I then overheard mention that she too was a trainee. I remember Kelly announcing that her trainees were joining the class today and the little bubble of applause from the yogis who were also teachers, or who would join us to present workshops over the coming weeks, or who were just excited for us.

But on the other hand, it feels like I've lived a lifetime in three months. I've learned so, so much—about yoga, about the body, about MY body, about the mind, about my mind. About teaching, sequencing, and being authentic as a yoga teacher. I may have been a good practitioner when I started YTT, but I was nowhere near ready to teach a class of my own. At least, not in comparison to where I am now, as a teacher and soon-to-be official RYT-200.

The Favorite Parts

It's cliche to say all of it has been my favorite, right? Well, I'm saying it anyway. There hasn't been a single negative to this experience. Not one day I haven't enjoyed. Not one lesson that hasn't been valuable and useful and important.

We've covered so much I wanted to learn more about: the eight limbs of yoga. Pranayama in depth with a workshop led by an incredible woman I'm lucky to still call my teacher, Agnes. Anatomy and physiology, useful for sequencing and for my other life as a runner. Ayurveda! Sanskrit! Hindu gods and goddesses who lend their names to postures and concepts called upon in yoga. It's all my favorite, and I've loved it all.

The Pleasant Surprises

Honestly, one of the things that kept me from enrolling earlier was the commitment to give up my Sundays for months on end. Turns out, there's almost nowhere I'd rather be on a Sunday than in YTT these past few months. I haven't even minded the early wake-up call and early morning sweat session—I usually much prefer to wake up for a few hours before I work out, race days being the exception.

I even have to tuck my tail between my legs and concede on the hot vs. non-hot yoga class. I love the heated classes, so much more than I thought I would. Before this, I was a dedicated non-hot practitioner, sticking to my home practice and Donna's not-hot class. But since literally every single other class in my studios is heated, and taking new teachers and observing other styles is an important part of training so I've had to dive in with both feet. I still don't buy into the idea that hot yoga is somehow "better" for you, or that it detoxes you—your kidneys do that. But it can be a more satisfying workout when you leave literally drenched in sweat on a 15-degree day. Not that yoga is all about the workout, but don't underestimate the power of sweat and concentration as a vehicle for meditation and pratayahara.

The Growth

My practice has transformed. It was strong before, but I can feel my body just naturally slipping into even foundational poses so much stronger, more easily, with better alignment. My body feels stronger, more open, more capable, and better able to withstand even more than before. My inversions and arm balances have come so far, and my body has responded so amazingly well to the more frequent practice.

(I should note here, I know the amount I practice is not accessible for most people. In YTT, unlimited yoga in our studios is included in the price of tuition. Since I work the desk two days and also teach at the studio, I'll continue to have unlimited yoga for free. If you're interested in more studio practice but find the financials prohibitive, look into karma yoga. Many studios have an exchange where if you work the desk (signing people in before class, cleaning the studio after class), you can get free classes.)

I can't say so much that I've changed much mentally through the process, because I've been on a journey of changing the way I think about things and having better control of my mind's tendency to slip to negative places for some time now. This YTT experience has absolutely helped though. Perhaps most importantly, it's given me more tools (pranayama, mudras, meditation, mantras) to access the parts of my mind I've needed to explore, and has made me more comfortable exploring them daily—rather than when they're forced to the surface, typically by something negative.

What I've Loved the Most

Besides the obvious and all of the above, the people I've had this experience with have made it all the better. I've made wonderful new friends, gotten to know incredible teachers, and bonded with a few women who make incredible mentors. I already miss seeing them and chatting with my classmates every single week. But hopefully we'll keep our promise to stay in touch long after we have certificates in hand.

What's Next

Because there's always something next, isn't there? I fully intend to continue my education to become the best teacher, the best student, the best yogi I can be.

Yin yoga caught my attention at Wanderlust last year, and I'm hoping sometime this year I'll find a program accessible to me for an additional certificate in Yin yoga. And Ayurveda! Even before Mara was finished giving her wonderful lesson I knew it would be something I had to pursue. There are 50 and 100-hour certificate programs for Ayurveda, and I'll be pursuing one of those too.

But most importantly, what's next for me is teaching. Growing my Sunday morning class and hopefully obtaining another at my beloved studio. Private, corporate classes. Other studios. Accessing my inner Donna, Kelly, Agnes, Mara, Ro. The gurus. Hopefully giving the gift that's been given to me by all of them, to another yogi. Because I've said it before and I'll say it again... yoga practice changes lives. The world would be a better place if everyone practiced yoga.

Oh, man. I can't believe it's almost over. I'm so pumped for this next phase, but unspeakably grateful to have had this experience, especially now as it draws to a close. If YTT is something you've considered yourself, whether you want to teach or deepen your practice—or both!—I say do it. Go for it, and let it change your life.

Over to the rest of you now. What are you doing to change your life this week, or this month? What are you training for? Grab a button and link up below!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Journey to the Center

Last year, I treated myself to a minimalism challenge. You can read about it here and here.

I went into it needing to find some centering, and by the end of it, I did feel like I had found that. Less than a year later, here I am, needing some centering once again.

I'm diving back into the Into Mind 30-day minimalism challenge, this time with a few tweaks. I'm not putting a time-frame on this challenge, exactly, and I don't want to refer to it as a "challenge" again. I want to gain clarity, calm, focus, and peace from this...let's say endeavor. I'm starting as soon as this post goes up, and with my penchant toward daily self-assessment, I guess I'll figure out in a few days, weeks, or months when it'll be time to wrap up and call this one mission: accomplished.

At least once:
  1. Stay offline for one day
  2. Declutter your digital life
  3. Identify your three to six main priorities
  4. Streamline your reading list
  5. Downsize your beauty collection
  6. No email or social media until lunch
  7. Evaluate your commitments
  8. Define your goals for the year
  9. Clean out your closet
  10. Unfollow and unfriend
  11. No TV all day, read instead
  12. Leave a whole day unplanned
  13. Identify your stress triggers
  14. Clear out your junk drawer
  15. Let go of a goal
(Try for) Every day:
  1. Meditate for 15 minutes
  2. Follow a morning ritual
  3. Examine your daily habits
  4. Practice gratitude
  5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
  6. Journal for 20 minutes
  7. Practice single-tasking
  8. Learn to enjoy solitude
As much as possible or necessary:
  1. Turn off notifications
  2. Evaluate your last five purchases
  3. Go for a walk and practice mindfulness
  4. Take a step toward learning a new skill
  5. Don't buy anything for 24 hours
  6. Go bare-faced
  7. No-complaint day
I feel like it's normal for this time of year—February, the Sunday of months—to bring some gloominess and blues. But this year, it's not cabin fever (it was 50ยบ last week...) or the lack of sunlight (I haven't been trapped in an office during all sunlit hours, as I usually am) that's to blame. It's me. It's because of saying "yes" too much and "no" too little. Because of good intentions gone wrong. Because a massive feeling of overwhelm has seeped into all corners of my life, and overwhelm comes like its own dark cloud.

No matter what's casting your dark cloud today, if you have one hanging over you too, come join me. Let's find our center before the spring comes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What I Never Wanted

Last year, when I wrote about stumbling into the next phase of my career—self-employment, full-time freelancing—I did mention a couple times that this wasn't something I ever wanted. In fact, it's not even so much that I never thought about it... I had thought about it, and decided that I didn't want it. But yet, by the fall, there I was: self-employed, a full-time freelance writer.

For a while, it was pretty easy to convince myself that I ended up there out of ambition and excitement. But with a few months under my belt, and a lot of time spent reflecting, I now know more accurately what drove me to take that massive leap: misery. I had been absolutely miserable at work last year, and getting rid of the boss/office format was the only way I knew to break out of that misery.

My misery came, surprisingly, mostly from one place: excessive, unrelenting, soul-sucking fatigue. I have had insomniac tendencies my entire life, and particularly when facing extreme stress. And insomnia feeds extreme stress, and round and round we go.

Last summer, I received my first job offer in more than three years. It appeared the only possible way out of the publishing company I'd worked at for that whole length of time. By July 2015, I despised my job. And, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, my boss despised me as well. He could put on a decent act, but during a happy hour this week with previous coworkers, it became perfectly clear that I am the single most hated employee in that company history. Even moreso than a person who actually defrauded the company out of thousands of dollars. And I have no idea why. I showed up every single day, did my job, did other people's jobs, filled in gaps, was nice and kind to my colleagues...and yet I was disrespected and demeaned daily. When the receptionist was getting a bonus for, I dunno, lasting 6 months on the job, I repeatedly worked late, took on double or triple the work I should have, dropped everything for a new project and met obscene deadlines, and it all went by without even a high-five in acknowledgement. You can't blame me for being miserable there.

The offer came, I gave my notice, I left. I then explored the offer a bit more, and said no. Not fully impulsively, mind you: I had interviews lined up and a meeting with a recruiter that went well. I had some cushion and plenty of faith.

I ended up on assignment on a cool job, but the environment, again, made me miserable. And not in your regular old, "Ugh, commuting is annoying! Ugh, the coffee here is gross!" kind of way. In the "I'm averaging two hours of sleep per night, and the minute I leave this office daily I want to cry at the very thought of coming back tomorrow" kind of way. I don't believe that life is meant to be lived that way. It can't be. And at 25, 26, I'd battled too much horrible shit in my life already to be okay with self-inflicting misery like this on myself.

Have you ever operated at full capacity on 2% battery? That's what insomnia does, and it can ruin a life. It was coming close to ruining mine. Nothing was enjoyable outside of work, because every move I made and breath I took was overshadowed by the knowledge that I'd have to go back and spend the majority of my day in a place that made me feel so bad. And I was beyond exhausted all the while. Fighting for your happiness when you haven't slept in weeks is not an easy thing to do.

I leaped because I felt like if I didn't, I would decay from the inside out. I didn't decide to go freelance because I was seeking a specific kind of job freedom, or early retirement like so many others who choose that path. I just wanted to sleep, and have my creative process respected, and work efficiently when I was able to rather than stare at blank computer screens for hours before my mind was awake and whirring, or while my very career was being slandered and regarded as unimportant. I wanted to be able to work and to do my job well, and no full-time employer was letting me do that.

And now after 4 months of freelancing, of being screwed by clients, of having payment delayed by U.S. mail and payroll departments who for some reason need 30 or 90 days to write a check, of hustling up to 60 hours a week pitching and emailing and getting paid for a quarter of it, if that, I'm done. I didn't want to do it in the first place, but I figured it would be fine. But while it's been doable, and was almost even worth it for a few weeks, it's still not giving me the life I want. Or the security I need. I'm still not fulfilled or satisfied and I'm still being treated like a floor mat. I'm envious of friends who leave work at 5 p.m. and actually leave work behind, mentally clock out. I'm envious of people who actually know when to expect their next paycheck.

It's been a complicated 8 months. I don't think I regret taking the leaps I did or the choices I made that led me here. If I hadn't, I would still be unhappy at work, but I would be unhappy in life too. At least today, everything else feels good and the only thing I would change is my job. Last year, I couldn't see the forest through the trees and everything just sucked and felt bad because work made me feel so bad. At least I'm not there anymore. But I'm in a different place I don't want to be—and a place that deep down, I always knew would not be permanent.

Now, on this side of the forest, I'm ready to be done with this phase of life. I know I'll never be the type of person who just works one 9-5 job, because I'll never stop being the person who's passionate about side projects and loves being on the ground floor of amazing things. I'll teach yoga classes for as long as they let me. I'll edit and manage the Bad Yogi Blog for as long as they'll have me. I'll edit Feather Magazine as long as it exists. And I'll stay with two side writing projects as long as it continues to make sense.

You were hoping this would be exciting and climatic, right? That I would announce a new job I'm excited about, a new position that's going to help me have my life back? Nah, no such luck. But I do have irons in the fire and I'm hustling just like I did last year—maybe harder—and trying to find the next best place for me. Who knows how long this search will take or where it will lead? Definitely not me. But I'm desperately ready to find out what's next. And hopefully, what's best.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Recent Reads Vol. 7

It's been a while since I had something post-worthy for Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana, because I was just a slowpoke for the last few months. Here's what I've finished since November...
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
The good news is that this one didn't squick me out like the last Emily Giffin book I read. There is no bad news, really—it was a good read. Pacing was nice and I liked the characters; they felt real and genuine and true to me. The trajectory was a bit predictable but it was enjoyable and a quick read regardless. To borrow the phrase from Steph, it passed the time just fine.

Recommend? — If you just want to read a nice story, for sure.

Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
This has been recommended countless times over the last year, and I've even had a copy sitting on my iPad and waiting for me for months. I have no idea what made me wait so long to pick it up, but I was so happy I finally did. This story was so beyond what I expected, and it was tender and sweet in ways I haven't had a book be in a long time. Lots of emotions. Beautifully told story.

Recommend? — For everyone, yes.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Hands-down my new favorite by Rainbow Rowell, though I did love Landline and really enjoyed Eleanor & Park. Very sweet characters, a non-traditional format and dual narrative (I quite like those), and a storyline I couldn't quite predict. Slay, Rainbow.

Recommend? — 100%

Beneath the Bonfire: Stories by Nickolas Butler
This is the same author of Shotgun Lovesongs, which I (and everyone else) fell in love with last year. The way he writes is just...magic. It's like being in a song. I find myself pausing to appreciate his sentence structure more than with any other modern author, except maybe Jodi Picoult (who can also turn a phrase like nobody's damn business). This collection of short stories was a little wild, pretty diverse, and always beautiful. Some of the stories were a little too far away from me to really grab me and pull me in, but I enjoyed every minute of reading them nonetheless.

Recommend? — Yes!

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I think I'm going to require any future potential dates to read this book, or at least pick up the audiobook (read hilariously by Aziz). I'm a fan of his stand-up, his show Master of None, and his character Tom on Parks & Rec. He wrote and researched this book on dating in the modern age with the help of a sociologist, and they certainly did a lot of homework. It was interesting to see some of the concepts he touches on in his stand-ups and his Netflix series rooted in the research he did for Modern Romance, and I really enjoyed it. Also, being that I'm dating in the modern age, I can confirm...so damn true.

Recommend? — Required reading.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
I'll start this review with some context you'll be wondering to yourselves, if not outright asking me: Barack Obama is my president, and I am an unabashed supporter of his administration. With that out of the way, let's continue...
I loved this. Firstly because Barack Obama is a great speaker, and I just love hearing great speakers speak. It was interesting to hear his commentary on America and politics from a decade ago, before he was president and still serving as Senator of Illinois. I loved best the parts about his personal life—his upbringing, his relationship with Michelle, fatherhood. Some other concepts he discussed took shape for me for the first time ever, like economics. I have never taken an econ class in my life, and aside from 101 basic knowledge I have no real understanding of large-scale economics, but his explanations made me feel like I could at least keep up with what he was saying.

Recommend? — For supporters of the president, I do highly recommend. For non-supporters, there's really nothing you'll read that would change your mind, is there? If you're on the fence or like memoirs, it's a yes.

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling

Both of these are in progress. I haven't finished a book in weeks, because I just...can't. My mind has been in a lot of different places lately and I'm trying to let it be everywhere at once...which isn't working. I'm almost done with The Rules of Attraction and hope to be able to report on both of these and a few others next month!

The latter two I'm currently reading as part of Erin's 2016 Book Challenge. Here's my full list:

5 points: Read a book, any book that is at least 200 pages long.
     The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling)
10 points: Read a book that begins with the letter “D”.
     Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)
10 points: Read a book with a four word title.
     The Rules of Attraction (Bret Easton Ellis)
15 points: Read a book with one of the following words in the title: “mother(s)”, “father(s)”, “son(s)”, “daughter(s)”, or “child(ren)”.
     The Emperor's Children (Claire Messud)
20 points: Amazon ranks their “most popular authors”, and they update this list hourly. Based on when you make your book list, look at the top 100 authors, and pick a book to read from one of those authors, but here’s the catch—it needs to be an author new to you…one of the most popular authors, yet you’ve never read them before.
     The Opposite of Loneliness (Marina Keegan)
20 points: Read a book set in any country in Asia. 
     The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
25 points: Read a book with a “Season” in the title. 
     Summerlong (Dean Bakopoulos)
30 points: Read a book that will make you laugh from this list.
     The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
30 points: Read a book that is a friend or family member’s favorite book.
     Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
35 points: Read a book published the year you were born.
     The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)

What are you reading lately, and what's on deck? Are you participating in any reading challenges this year?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to Have a Sick Day

First, it's important to ignore the tickle or scratch or tightening in your throat for a minimum of two to three days. Tell yourself it's just a little irritated from some irritant you must have come into contact with but cannot actually identify. Have two Halls cough drops in two days and think that'll do the trick.
Have two extra cups of tea, and put honey in both. Convince yourself that's actually a cure. When tea doesn't soothe the throat, switch to ice cream. When that doesn't work, go back to tea. Alternate between taking blankets off and putting them back on during this process.

Convince yourself that talking intermittently for 75 minutes in that one class you taught is totally enough to give yourself a constricted throat. Ignore the corresponding congestion and fuzzy-headedness, because you can't blame that on teaching a yoga class.

Sip on your third cup of tea while making a list of all the things you're going to do to be incredibly productive the next day. Write things like "run 4 miles" and "go to the post office" and other things that, when you swallow a sip of tea and feel your throat trying to murder you, sound like torture.

Go to sleep thinking a good night's rest will do the trick.

Wake up in a haze, blaming your lethargy on the fact that it's raining rather than the fact that you woke up every hour last night. Look at your to do list and convince yourself that it's still going to be a great and productive day!

Answer some emails from your couch, still refusing to give up on plans to get all the work done today. Tell yourself that working from home and being sick cancel each other out. Tell yourself that you can work in leggings and no bra, and that feeling like death is no reason not to work when you can work from your couch.

Rearrange your week so you can go to the post office and run tomorrow. But still plan to do all the work you planned to do today!

Realize that it's not even noon and it feels like you've been up for three days straight. Go lay on your bed just for a minute because it looks really inviting. Don't get under the covers. Maybe just tuck your feet under the blanket folded at the foot of the bed. That's plenty. Browse Reddit so you don't fall asleep, knowing that you'll sleep till tomorrow if you do.

Watch New Girl on Netflix all the while.

Rally yourself to answer some emails, send out some new ones, and write a couple things. Decide you've worked enough to treat yourself to some soup and a little break.

Remember the good old days when you used to get strep throat every few months and your doctor said you should have your tonsils removed. Wonder why it never happened when you were 12, and tell yourself that a tonsilectomy at age 26 is out of the question.

Contemplate a tonsilectomy every time you swallow.

Google the latest viral epidemic and sigh in relief when you don't see "sore throat" on the list of symptoms. But keep checking just in case they add it to the list.

Crowd-source blog readers for at-home remedies because you don't feel like going to the doctor.
Any favorite tips, friends?
What's New With You

Monday, February 1, 2016

February Wallet Watch

I think you KNOW a specific post needs to happen when you somehow manage to fly through writing it before you've even finished your morning coffee. That's what happened when I read Steph's Wallet Watch post and linkup announcement last week. I just opened a new tab and started churning out what you're about to read.

See, I haven't been terribly off the rails lately, but I can definitely stand to tighten up next month. I have a few trips and a wedding coming up (in which I'm the MOH and throwing the shower and bachelorette!) so February is a good month to reign it in! I've imposed spending freezes upon myself before, but call it something cutesy and put a linkup on it and my chances of succeeding quadruple. Probably. I dunno, I've never done the math. Anyway...