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Growing Pains

Trying new things is hard. The growing pains are uncomfortable. 

As I continue to process the information I received over 8 days at the Kula Yoga Project’s advanced teacher training, and embark on an 7 day juice fast for the first time, the growing pains are eminent.

The Kulafied clan of yogis, soaking in the final morning of ocean air and sunshine.

Kula Yoga Project is a studio based in NYC. If you’re in New York and love yoga, GO. It’s awesome. Studio Director Schuyler Grant has developed a signature Kula style that seamlessly combines the breath based flow of Ashtanga with the precision of Iyengar alignment, to create a sweaty and incredible mind/body experience. Spending 8 days with her was a privilege, and man did I ever learn a lot. Here are a couple of my favourite take aways...

Kula’s style is definitely unique in that unlike in most yoga classes, the teacher will not demonstrate (unless absolutely necessary). Instructors use concise cues to guide students through the practice, so that they can have their own experience initiated from inside themselves, instead of trying to recreate a shape that they see in front of them. One of my goals coming out of this training has been to completely stop demonstrating in all of my classes. Obviously this means that as a teacher, my cuing has to be impeccably precise (which it isn’t yet, but I’m working on it), and it also means that I have to sit with the discomfort of students sometimes looking lost when my cues are less than perfect. 

In addition to all of that, the students have to become proficient at actively listen, so the learning curve for both myself and any practitioner that isn’t used to learning this way, is steep. But hey, I’m not perfect and I’m learning too. So sometimes I just pop down to the ground and show something real quick. Students are creatures of habit though. If they get used to watching, they don’t learn how to listen. So I’m trying incredibly hard not to give in to the urge to demonstrate, ever. The whole point of teaching yoga is to help make people present, so as teachers we have to be present ourselves; and we can’t be lazy. If I’m demonstrating on my mat for 2/3 of the class, the students are only getting my full attention 1/3 of the time. I can’t fully teach to the room, if I’m not SEEING what is happening to the bodies in the room from all angles.

The other skill I’m practicing is teaching to the metronome: guiding class to a steady rhythm from start to finish, with very specific breath and movement cues, to allow students to unconsciously drop into a flow that is so much more than your typical Vinyasa. That rhythm is what makes it a moving meditation, and is one of the reasons Kula classes feel SO good. Again, if you’re in NYC go: http://www.kulayoga.com/kula/

So I’m trying to teach with incredibly precise cues, without demonstrating, while simultaneously adjusting, and while keeping a metronome-like rhythm. It’s a lot and it’s hard. ...For now. 

So, why bother with these new “practices” if teaching felt so beautiful and seamless before I started applying them? To inspire. Every day I hope to inspire students in their practice, whether it be physically, mentally, or spiritually. Kula’s advanced training blessed me with the guidance of teachers who have inspired me to grow; so I have to do the work. I trust that it’s worth the effort. Like everything else we’ve ever had to learn to do, it will become easier and more embodied with practice, patience and time. Right now, some days it feels really great and natural. And other days it feels frustrating and significantly less great. But that’s part of learning and growing, and I want to be the very best that I can be for my students and for myself.

My first morning juice: apple, grapefruit, orange, celery and romaine.

In the spirit of bettering myself, I’m beginning my ritual fall cleanse this week, but with a bit of an added spin. I’ve set my intention, and am on day 2 of a 7 day community juice fast. In the week leading up to the fast, my intention was met by some “shocked” reactions (to say the least): “7 days? ... Why so extreme? ... But you’ll lose weight? ... You don’t need to cleanse, you’re already clean?!” Guess what folks, we live in big smelly city where our pace is significantly faster than what is “healthy” and where most of us consume processed foods. We could all use a little cleansing! Myself included. And sure, maybe juicing is considered by many as being one of the more extreme ways of doing it, but I am being led by an incredibly knowledgable teacher whom I love and trust completely. Her name is Caroline Dupont and for a taste of her magic check out: www.carolinedupont.com 

The fast is done in a community setting so that everyone feels supported throughout, and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference to have that support. At the group meeting that marked the beginning of the fast, we gathered together, sipped on samples of broth and almond elixir, set our intentions and Caroline led us through a beautiful Kirtan. One of the most challenging things leading up to the fast was that I found myself doubting whether I should do it or not, not because of my thoughts and feelings around it, but because of other people’s opinions. I did my research. I’m not alone in this journey and I’m not crazy. I am brave.

Tonight marks the end of day two. I have honestly felt better over the last two days then I did last week when I was omitting things gradually from my diet. My energy level is a little lower, but it’s a welcomed change of pace, and I have not felt hungry at all. Meal time is so simple and I love it!! Do I want tea, juice, mineral broth or almond milk? Done. WAY simpler!! Don’t get me wrong, chewing on something will feel amazing when this is over, but for now I am very much at peace with the process.

So cheers to being brave, overcoming obstacles and blossoming into new possibilities. Some lessons are harder than others, but everything is a practice. We all have our stuff, and we do our very best with the tools that we have to grow from our experiences.

Check back in next week to hear about how the rest of the juice fast goes.

The Yoga Heroes Series

Andréa Raymond, a fellow bilingual, born and raised in Ottawa and a wonderful colleague of mine at Breathe Yoga Studio; has a blog called Bookish Yoga Girl. 

Andréa is a yogini and teacher who lives and writes in Toronto.

She regularly shares her thoughts and experience on yoga, books, travel, food and teaching; and recently began the Yoga Heroes Series. This new feature on her blog spotlights yoga instructors, scholars and therapists from Breathe Yoga Studio as well as the wider yoga community of Toronto. 

When she asked me if I would consider answering a few questions, I was honoured. Here is a small taste of the interview I did with her. 

How has yoga changed your life, outlook, relationships?  The short answer is that I am more aware and awake then I was before. The less abbreviated answer is that it has changed a lot … I’ve created space for the people and things that inspire me, I’ve learned the importance of creating rituals, I met the person I love the most in the world, and I feel more connected to my life’s purpose; all because of Yoga. I sleep better, I feel more grateful, ask more questions, and have more confidence. I make more informed choices, I have a voracious appetite for knowledge and information, and every time I learn something new I eagerly dissect it. Life is exciting, busy and beauty-full. ...

For the rest of the interview and other great entries, check out her blog here: http://bookishyogagirl.com.