Quick notes from private lesson

Push ups – a different way to develop. Sit with one leg starched out wide, other leg folded in, like for janu sirsasana. Walk torso forward until wrists are under shoulders, push ups from there. Do other side. Do every day!
Punches – think about internal rotation of upper arm & engaging lats.
Pull back – start rotation immediately when pulling back, feel the upper arm internally rotate & engage lats as it’s happening, rather than waiting until final position.
Slooowww practice to feel the whole body. Seisen dachi stepping forward and back with punches keeping it meditative & noticing the breath & what I’ve learnt about the body engagement today. Thinking of centre line as chakras line up, still stable centre. Mirror helps. My stepping wavers.
Kihon dosa san – slowly feeling all movement are within a tighter area, lengthen the body, narrow the width.


I wanted to quit yoga teaching

I’ve been finding it tough. I’m a new teacher. I was never an advanced yoga practitioner. I’m kinda shit if I’m honest.

When I was subbing classes at the gym for a friend I was enjoying the classes, but when a spot opened up for a regular class that is when my confidence unravelled. What the hell was I thinking! I can barely do a backbend myself and here I am in front of 25 people trying to act the part of a yoga teacher. So much responsibility. Each class a few people would say nice things to me and I felt good, but then the other teacher would pass on some feedback from the regulars. No one said anything nasty, it was simply comments on my style, which is vinyasa but very much on the yin side of the continuum. These happy fit gym goers want more yang, power vinyasa, like the other teacher.

So I madly googled stronger sequences and tried different things, then some people would walk out, or comment I was straying too far away from the essentials beginner sequences they liked and that after a busy work week they wanted to switch off and relax with a predictable flow. How could I please everyone?

I was confused and felt I had lost my authenticity. What was I even doing this for?

Another blow to my confidence was a few small but significant work pressures which forced me back into ‘serious career mode’ when for the last 6 months I’ve been enjoying lots freedom and the bliss of a non-serious work position and dreams of teaching more yoga. Nothing was expressly said but I understood I needed to knuckle down and get more serious if I wanted to keep working where I enjoy working.

Back to yoga class. I decided to teach how I liked to practice and tried to be me, not me acting a role. Gentle vinyasa, lots of focus on the breath, longer held yin poses. I felt happy and again some people gave positive thanks after class. One person wanted to pass on more than a smile. She commented how it was obvious I was a new teacher, but that she’d noticed improvement in the last few weeks (I had increased my home practice so that must have shown). She thought I kept them in child pose for far too long when she wanted to keep moving. She wanted the challenging poses like side plank held longer. She was very open and nice and I appreciate this feedback. I explained about yin yoga and how I also teach restorative so she could see where I was coming from. We laughed and agreed that maybe she could slow down a little in life, but I could use some more fire and challenge myself. I thought I was cool with this conversation but it kept replaying in my head: “you’re a shit yoga teacher” “I’m shit” “who do I think I am subjecting the nice public with my incompetence” “shit shit shit” “why don’t you go back to boring office drone work, loser”.

I wanted to throw it in. I wanted to crawl in a hole. I had 2 weeks off. 1 day was planned (karate camp) and I came down with a bad cold the next week. I haven’t been sick since I began yoga teacher training & discovered so much joy (and my life purpose, so I thought). Amazing how a virus can pick out a person in a weakened vulnerable state!

So I got better, did more karate, showed up for class again and gave it another shot, blending 75% me with 25% for the side planking fast flow people. They seemed happy, someone applauded. Feedback lady gave me a big smile. Some new people came up and asked lots of questions and said even though they couldn’t do lots they will come back and keep trying. They had good humour and made me feel happy for them that despite their ailments would join a gym and try a new form of exercise.

Then later today I taught my private class, restorative yoga. 1 repeat student who bought along 2 friends. I was so inclined to cancel and it was a big push to put it out there that I was teaching this class. I really thought no one would show. But they did and they had a nice time. I hope they come back & tell their friends :)

I feel good, I feel like I made some people happy today. I wanted to teach yoga because I’ve always gotten so much out of it, so much mental relief, and I hoped to share something that would make their life a tiny bit better, even if it’s just a glimpse of bliss in a 1 hour class.
Nameste.

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Mental shift with kicking

Writing this down quickly in case I forget! In my very first karate lessons when learning to punch, I was told to focus on my pull back arm not my punching arm. It helps with staying centred and sends energy from the body into the punch, rather than forcing effort into the punching arm. Then over time I learnt about using the hips & the breath but let’s stay with pull back for now.

My kicks have been frustrating me lately. I feel like I can’t improve or at times getting worse. Tonight Sensai had me thinking about what works with my punches and apply that to my kicks. I tried the kata again this time shifting my awareness to the standing leg and ignoring the kicking leg. So similar in thinking to pull back arm in my punches. It made a difference and it felt like a new part of my brain switched on. I don’t suddenly have perfect kicks but now I have a new focus and can move forward & hopefully improve.

And I learnt something about my hip placement when doing kosa-dachi to side kick. I didn’t understand what hip rotation meant in this context when I was giving it all I had. Problem was I kept hips points facing the front at all times, but it should be hips to front as I begin step, then leg crosses over letting hips move naturally to the side (direction of travel) giving heaps more rotation as I side kick and hips come back to front.

Yay! Totally worth going to karate tonight!!!


30 seconds: private karate lesson

Block/punch: Elongate the spine, shoulder & hip move at same time, exaggerate the openness & movement until it becomes natural then refine. Feel with blocks that the blocking arm pulls straight back into correct position.
Stepping in seisen dachi: back heel is grounded before the punch, don’t move it as I punch.


30 seconds

Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds — no more, no less — to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.

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30 seconds: Last night’s karate training…

Rinten zuki – found a much better placement of the foot that steps through. I was not stepping enough to the front which caused the turn to be unbalanced and awkward. And the path of the foot must cut through directly, my tendency is to move it in an arc.


11-12-13

This date is very significant to me. In December last year, I was with my very good friend who I met through work, we were sitting in a bar at the Woodford Folk Festival drinking in the atmosphere, and I announced that on the 11th of December 2013 I would be quitting my job, no matter what. Unless things magically improved.  Which they didn’t.

But magical improvements started happening elsewhere in my life.

  • Went back to yoga.  I listened to my voice inside that told me this is what I needed most.
  • Spent 6 months with big-hearted people learning to be a yoga teacher.  So much yoga, mindful yoga, started to break away the outer layers revealing more of the true me inside.
  • I went on a karate camp, made friends and became closer with people I’d previously only seen at training.  Also did a tournament for the first time.  And kept training, now I’m 7th kyu.
  • I went on 2 yoga retreats.  1 was part of the training course, another was a restorative retreat to relax and soften further.  I long to teach restorative yoga now I have certification.
  • Intuition opened up and an opportunity revealed itself.  I was able to leave my job a few months sooner than planned.  I went straight to another job with familiar lovely people, there is no stress, I work less and have 1 day off during the week, and I’m so much happier.  The pay is lower and it’s not exactly using my hard-earned accounting degree, but I’m OK with this.  It was tiring trying to be someone I wasn’t.
  • The day I graduated from yoga school I organised all the required insurances, business registrations etc and started teaching weekly donation only classes to my karate friends at the dojo.  Week by week and it’s getting easier.  People are coming back.
  • A friend from yoga asked if I’d fill in a couple of her spots teaching yoga at a local gym.  My first ever paid yoga job was today, 11/12/13.  Coincidence?  The class went well, they seemed happy and I will see them next Wednesday.  Feeling like a real yoga teacher now.

In the final days of 2012 I had no inkling that by this date today I would be teaching yoga, I would not have believed anyone that might have suggested it.  All I knew then was that I needed to make changes, and to sit with myself and explore.  When I started to play with the idea of teaching yoga I was scared of the reactions if I said it out loud.  It was so funny how many people told me they could totally see me as a yoga teacher.  My business persona clearly wasn’t fooling anybody.

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Listening to my heart, finding my sankalpa

I haven’t written for a few months, but remembering how writing became a useful tool for me to work things out in my head this year, here I am back again, curious to see what words come out and what will become.

It’s been a year of learning and self-discovery.  My goal at the end of last year was to spend a year exploring myself, to look inside and find out who I am and what I  like, and to answer those questions people sometimes ask:

“What would you be doing if money was no object?”

“What are you passionate about?”

“What is your dream job?”

“What are you good at?”

With something other than “I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it”.

I read once that to answer these kinds of questions, you take an hour or so, a few blank pages and write anything that comes up, could be occupations, tasks, ideas, words or short sentences, to the point, keep writing, and the one that makes you cry is the thing you should be doing.  I never did that exercise.  But I did start listening to myself in other ways.

It’s not easy to listen to your heart when you’ve built up armour over the years.  Strength and self-sufficency. I didn’t want any needy crap going on inside, I told “self” to go away and shut-up and not to show any signs of weakness.  Not that I am cold-hearted for other people.  I love people, I’m empathetic, I always try to understand others and not be judgemental. I hate that “suck it up princess” attitude.  Everyone needs nurturing… even me?  Was “I” still in there?

July this year: 4 day yoga teacher training retreat.  4 glorious days in nature, to learn more about yoga with amazing people, be taken care of, no cooking, cleaning, no demands from kids, no technology.  Day 1 meditation was heart based.  “Feel the breath moving up and down the body moving through the centre of the heart.  Feel the heart expanding, feel the heart beating.”  Nothing.  No heart beat.  Straight A’s for yogic breathing and not letting my mind wander off, but I couldn’t sense my heart.  But each day I was getting closer.  We rose early in silence, meditated, we wrote in our journals, quiet time was like gold for me.  I think anyone with kids can understand this.  By Day 4 yes there it was, my beating heart.  I also found my sankalpa.

My deepest purpose, when I gave myself space, silence, inner reflection, desire to find my heart, mixed with plenty of damn good yoga, expertly guided meditation and good people, started to emerge during that weekend.

Life is hard and we all have suffering, and my deepest desire is to make it a little easier for others.  That was the idea that made me cry.  The emotion I feel when I say it doesn’t come out in my writing but believe me, I choke up every time.  I think the emotion I feel is a recognition that I too have suffering, that it’s perfectly OK that I can feel pain in my heart, and feel needy sometimes, and that I don’t have all the answers and I’m allowed to show vulnerability.

Help others, make their life or at least this moment a little easier.  I can’t take away another’s pain, I can’t change bad things that have happened, I definitely don’t want to poke my nose in other peoples lives and give advice or try to “fix” them.  But I think, I hope, by being aware of this deep purpose “to make it easier” I can find ways to share a little lightness in the world.  Maybe it’s teaching yoga, maybe it’s spending more time really listening to people, maybe tiny gestures like letting someone in front of me at the supermarket who might have needed a kind connection at that moment.

What’s your sankalpa?

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