Friday, June 28, 2013

Testing, Testing, 1...2...Testing...

This past week my 200 hour students graduated from teacher training. The week before my youngest step-daughter graduated from high school, leaving in her wake a very worn out step-mom from planning and hosting her graduation party! I found myself sick with a summer head cold, run down and tired. I looked forward to the coming weeks with a smile - finally I was going to have a somewhat "normal" schedule with some down time.

My Yoga Road Trip is planned for July 7-13 and I'm making some major headway on the planning. But what it opened me up to is the fact that it sure isn't all going to get done in one week! There is no way I can get around to all the fabulous studios and teachers that I've been hearing about. So, my yoga week has turned into a yoga month! For the month of July, at least once a week on my day off I am hitting a studio or teacher. I'm excited to dive in and enjoy a month of yoga, but there is one tiny little problem...my wrist.

Yes, just a few weeks ago my right wrist decided to dislocate - or something. I really don't know what I did or how I did it, but I can't put much pressure on it. Even a simple table with cat rolls is sometimes agonizing for me to attempt. So, here I am at the precipice of an amazing month of yoga, with some sort of sprain or dislocation to my wrist. To quote this generation, "WTF?!"

Sure I've been laying off of it because it's swollen, and I've been massaging the ligaments and tendons which are quite sore. Then this week I pulled out the good-ole' "Thai Yellow Stuff" that I brought back from Thailand. A couple of days of applying that to the joint and - viola! No more swelling and it's feeling pretty good. Of course, it has now been popping a lot and does have moments of strain, but at least I felt good enough to take a class. So I decided to venture out today on a little trial run for my month of yoga.

I headed to a local studio, Yoga Inspired, in Pitman, NJ. I've taught a few classes there and am on the sub list, but I had never practiced at the studio. I got up early, juiced, walked the dogs, grabbed a banana and headed out to the little town.

What excites me most about the studio is that it really reminds me of my earlier studio. An upstairs "loft" above the old bank in town, Yoga Inspired, is a cute, carpeted studio with beautiful old open windows to allow in the morning sunlight. The regular teacher, Erik, was on vacation, which I should have remembered from the subbing emails that went out to us, but I looked forward to practicing the "Flow on Friday" class at 10 am.

The instructor began with discussion a type of flow we would be doing and sampling it for us. I enjoy when a teacher breaks something down for you and sets it up for the class, however, when she said this would be to help us work towards the advanced arm balances we'd be doing I was less thrilled. I wondered if my on-and-off wrist could handle all the work. Well, I soon found out!

We began with some simple arm, shoulder and wrist stretches, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When we warmed up with cat rolls on the hands and knees a trickle of pain stretched down my wrist, but it wasn't enough to cause any issues. I talked myself through "Hasta Bandha" and made sure that my weight was bearing accordingly. Then we moved into the standard Surya A & B series. I found some of the cues confusing and "off" in comparison to my own style and pranic flow training, but I closed my eyes and worked into my own practice without letting that get to me, as I can often do. My first few rounds were shaky. I could feel my wrist literally shaking to stabilize me. I drew in Uddiyana bandha and hoped it would be enough to take the weight even more out of my wrist. After about 8 namaskars I found my wrist to me strong and solid, and I effortlessly flowed through namaskar after namaskar.

"Ahh," I thought, "all I needed to fix my wrist was more yoga!"

I was smiling, happy and enthusiastic that my wrist had been healed. All was going well until we went onto our backs for a little bridge and wheel. Bridge was, of course, fine. When she offered up wheel I had a fleeting thought to do bridge again, but my ego instructed me to move my hands into wheel prep. As soon as I did, I knew it was going to be too much pressure on my wrist. She cued us to lift up, but I hesitated, feeling more strain in my wrist. I struggled with the thought of what to do - should I "listen to my body" as I instruct all of my students to do, all the time, in every class? Or, do I go for the pose because my mind told me I could?

Are you at the edge of your seat? Well, you shouldn't be. Because you know what I did, I went for it - full throttle, up and onto my head...because that was as much juice as I had in my wrist. I breathed for a moment, wondering what I should do. Come down early? Move up past the pain? You know what I did, don't you? I pushed up, completely sure that my intense knowledge of bandhas and muscles would pull me through...and it did. Full wheel felt awesome! I was now wide awake - body, mind and spirit. I knew for a brief moment that I had made the correct choice. And then, the moment changed and our teacher told us to come down out of wheel...and my wrist screamed out in pain.

I grabbed my right wrist with my left hand and began to massage it, then shake it, then massage again. The class had moved into something else - I had no idea. I was on my back rubbing my wrist thinking, "stupid, stupid, stupid..."

At some point the class moved into standing postures and I resumed practice, feeling strong in my body and weak in my brain. I kept rubbing my wrist hoping the instructor would see me and come over and offer some words of wisdom. But she didn't. I began faulting her for never checking in at the beginning of the class, like I instruct all of my own teachers to do. But it wasn't her fault, it was mine. I did it. I knew better.

And then the moment came: side crow. I laughed, at which point the instructor asked me if I'd like a board for under my hands for more stability and pointed to my wrist. I kindly thanked her and mentioned it was an "ongoing issue" and that I'd probably modify completely. The class went up in side crow (okay, maybe not all the way up), and what do you think I did? Are you on the edge of your seat? Well, you shouldn't be, because you know what I did, don't you? I tried it. Well, I assumed the prep position, attempted a small amount of weight, and came right out. No, there would be no side crow for Tracey - today.

I did not feel defeated by this, however. I took it as another lesson - albeit one that I should have already known. I finished out the class moving into some postures that I needed for me figuring I may as well listen to my body now. The instructor was accommodating and encouraging.

After class I purchased a book (I told myself that part of my visiting local studios would be buying a shirt or something small from each one), took some information, and headed out. I decided to take some more time in Pitman, had a pedicure, ate a nice salad outside at Sweet Lulu's and followed it up with some cookies from Just Cookies (p.s. the Burnt Butter cookies are AMAZING)! After poking into a few shops and forcing myself to avoid going into Mythic Ink Tattoos, I headed home. The wrist is clicking (I'm sure typing doesn't help it) and a little swollen, but it doesn't hurt a lot. A little more Thai Yellow Stuff and it should be back to pre-wheel condition.

So what did I learn today? I learned that as much as my mind may be willing, I have to trust my body. I learned that I am more than ready for this month of yoga and that I should always modify when I need to. I learned that Pitman is a really cute town with some super nice folks. And I learned that Just Cookies takes order for Christmas!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Prepping for a Yoga Road Trip


Owning a yoga studio is an easy way to get disconnected from your own yoga practice. I have struggled with making time for myself and my yoga practice for over ten years now and I'm tired of it. Owning a business means that you are involved with every facet of it - from restocking the toilet paper to doing bookwork. On any given day, I wear the hats of Director of Marketing, Human Resources Director, CEO, CFO, Instructor, Accounting Manager, Janitor, and Customer Relations V.P. At the end of the day, most days, I just don't have it in me to do my own practice - even though I may want to. In fact, it is challenging to use my days off as true days off and not answer emails or calls or do a little paperwork.

A student of mine (also a local business owner), said to me a week or so ago, "that's why we own our own business, so we can take off any time we want." My first thought in response was, "must be nice. I certainly cannot take time off whenever I want to." But the more I thought about it, the more that phrase echoed in my brain. Certainly I take vacations and am gone from the studio, but I've missed so many parties and special events because of my teaching schedule, my own yoga practice has suffered, and frankly, I have become a big ball of stress from the constant pace. So I decided to re-evaluate my schedule a bit.

I was supposed to start a Vinyasa Yoga teacher training in July, but it wasn't coming together for some reason. Instead of being upset about it, I sat with it. The Universe is definitely telling me to take a break for the summer. The question was, why? Of course the normal answer would be just to relax, unwind and take a break. But the business owner in me worries that during the slower summer months I may not have enough coming into the studio to take time off. Yet, the clear message was undeniable.

Then one morning I had a brainstorm: take a yoga road trip! My Gemini mind likes that. I can immerse myself into yoga and get away from the business of running a studio, yet use the week to write about yoga and enjoy my journey. Maybe I'll even learn some creative ideas to bring back to my own studio along the way...a little work, and a lot of play!

Although armed with my Prius, I'm going to start small-scale. I want to try and catch 2 classes a day in the tri-state area (NJ, PA, NY), keeping to a 2-hour maximum drive time in distance to my home. I planned a week off in July, got my subs all in place for my regular classes, and warned my husband that he would have to care for the dogs most of the week as I would most likely have early morning and late day classes. I intend to stay at home most evenings, with the exception of an overnight stay in NYC, but basically once I leave the house in the morning, I am gone for the day...destination unknown!

Well, that's not entirely true either. I've actually been scanning studio schedules and trying to plan things out in a meaningful way. The overnight trip to NYC will work out nicely to hit at least 3 studios (making time for a few classes with Sri Dharma Mittra, of course). Since I live close to Philadelphia, I can run into the city from my home for classes, making it likely to attend another class in Pennsylvania for the evening as well. 

This is going to be good for me. Not just because I can attend to my own yoga practice again, but I am also finally getting back "out there." Since I opened my own studio, I have had little time to see what others are doing in theirs. Now of course when I opened my studio there were very few others out there. Now there are hundreds of studios spread about the area. I certainly cannot hit them all, but those with a buzz about them or who have well-known teachers are amongst the top studios to hit.

I am also interested in checking out some different styles of yoga. I'm well versed with certain styles, but I'd like to use this time as a mini-workshop/retreat for myself too. I've walked out of more Iyengar classes than I've taken, so I want to hit the Iyengar Institute in NYC - and stay for a class this time. I want to check out a class in Forrest Yoga, Asthanga, Aerial, Yin and Jivamukti as well. It seems these days that many studios have their own eclectic mix, not unlike my studio. I get that. But I really want to immerse myself into certain disciplines with more structure. 

I am slightly concerned how my body will hold up with so much yoga during the week, several classes a day, every day. I am used to doing yoga for 7 days straight with my teacher training programs, but it is very different when you teach yoga. It isn't your practice. When you are teaching, you are going through the motions, but there is no depth. You never really get to "feel" the practice, your body, and where you are at, in the moment, because the practice when you are a teacher is not for you - it is for your students. Plus, driving/commuting from location to location is also a physical drain on my body (especially with Philly and NYC rush-hour traffic patterns I'll be hitting). So, while I am excited about the week, I am cautious not to spread it on too thick and fizzle out in 3 days.

This morning I had yet another wonderful brainstorm: why not treat myself to bodywork at any studio that offers it? Certainly this would help regulate my body with this overflow of practice...and I mean, why not?!

Since my schedule has been non-stop since this January, I also want to try and visit some old friends along the way and possibly invite some yoga friends to join me for certain classes. My idea is to make the week as enjoyable as possible for my mind, body and spirit. I'm not sure how it's all going to pan out, but it should surely be an interesting week, to say the least.

I plan to blog each day while I'm on my yoga road trip and share the thoughts, inspirations, emotions and feelings that each practice and day brings me. As American author, Greg Anderson once said, 
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. 
Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Knowing When It is Time to Make a Change


Tracey Smiling Dear (Contact First Name),   

"Ch-ch-ch-Changes...(turn to face the strain)" - David Bowie
 
You Can't Stop Change
You know, I am not one who goes easily with change. I like to think that I am, but like most people, change is difficult and brings up a lot of fear. Change speaks directly to our first chakra because often it rocks our foundation in some way and sets us off balance. And yet change is most certainly always afoot. Seasons change, the moon changes, people can change and thus will relationships - everywhere we are surrounded by constant change. And yet, it remains a challenge for most people.
 
With energy constantly changing you really have two choices: fight it or go with it. I think we can all understand what problems fighting change can bring. So really the only option left is to go with it. Ah, but in that lies the rub.  

When is it time to make a change?
I remember stressing out about a decision that I had to make once. I knew that the decision to end a relationship would be the best one everyone involved - especially myself, yet I struggled with making it. I found just about every excuse not to do it. Then a wise person (my yoga teacher) told me to take a deep breath. Now when I have similar situations I do the same thing, I take a deep breath, get still and grounded, and do nothing. Instead of obsessing about it, I let it go. I breathe into my body and create a meditative space where my mind can relax. As I become more centered and in tune, I am now in the place to ask myself the question, and see how it "feels" in my body. Some days I am not ready to let go entirely and it may take several attempts - weeks, months, forgive me but also years, to get to the truth of what resonates with me. But once I know for sure, I can then set about making the changes that I need.

So, Spring has finally sprung - another change. June 8th is the next New Moon, a perfect time for inner reflection. Use that night to be still and tune in to yourself. In the following two weeks as the moon grows to full, continue to meditate on the question. If it comes to you, use the night of the Full Moon on June 23rd to make it happen! We also have the energy of the Summer Solstice behind us a this time, so let go of your fears and do what resonates with you. The earth, your yoga practice, and good friends will always support you.
Namaste. 
Tracey L. Ulshafer, Director/Owner