Imagine a juggling act that involves a person running down a row of spinning plates balanced on sticks, trying to keep them all spinning? That is an apt description of my life! Most days, I am keeping my home life, work life, family obligations, personal goals, yoga teaching, and other obligations “spinning” while making sure nothing drops. Living such a fast-paced existence-and doing all these things relatively well-is a challenge, even for a yogi.
Fortunately, I can always rely on my yoga practice to help me keep it all together. Right now, my focus is on pranayama and meditation. I practice mindful breathing (pranayama) to keep myself focused and present as I concentrate on the current wobbling “plate” about to fall, and then I move my focus to the next one in danger of falling. Our staff smiles when they see me take deep breaths during stressful or fast-paced situations. They know they can rely on a calm leader to keep things going. At home, before going to sleep, I spend time meditating by reading a selection from Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kennison. In these ways, I practice yoga off the mat.
My on-the-mat practice allows me to bring it all together. I love every opportunity to be on the mat! Whether I am taking a class at The Sanctuary, watching a DVD at home, or developing my own practice, I enjoy taking the time to just be with my body. I watch how each asana feels at that moment. My greatest challenges are to remain non-judgmental and refrain from competition. Overcoming temptation to criticize my practice, “I did it better yesterday,” or “Why can’t I go deeper into the asana?” continues to be a journey. It becomes even more of a challenge when I am dealing with a (chronically) sore shoulder or other physical issue. How hard do I push myself, what asana do I avoid, is it OK to work through the discomfort?-these can be distractions to my practice. When I stay present on my mat, the results are amazing.
Oddly enough, these struggles have made me a better teacher! I approach each asana with the mindset of creating an accessible practice for each student. What props and modifications can we use? How does the student feel in that asana? What can I do or say to encourage the class to be present? And it all comes together when a student tells me after class, “That is just what I needed today!”