What to Wear

Dress, Pen and PencilIt was 7:30 pm and I was exhausted from sitting on the studio floor in yoga teacher training; my fifty-something hips and knees crackling  their complaints as I crawled in the car and pressed the gas to make it up Prince Street.  A glow to my left drew my eyes from the road.

The store manager knew not to place anything around the mannequin in the softly lit window as big as the store.  The line, the form, the shine said it all.  A black and white gingham skirt — full, but not too full so as to be a costume,  and of the highest quality silk, I could tell from the shimmer of the threads.  Cinched by a black band at the waist, topped by a sheer black blouse and topped with a white Peter Pan collar, it said classic and whispered sexy all at the same time.

And then: reality as cold as the rainy blacktop that would carry me home.  I don’t go to places that require this kind of dress anymore. I have retired from a life that would require this kind of fancy…or sexy.

When I was 18, I learned how to dress to achieve.  Upon getting my first summer job at American University, Mom took me to get work dresses — 5 of them — from the old Garfinkel’s store on Mass Ave.  I loved one so much I wore it almost every Friday as a celebration.  It was the same silhouette as the dress in the window:  full in the skirt, the top close to the body. This dress was sleeveless and the creamy tan and black polka-dotted cotton with a small white collar and big black bow highlighted my summer tan.  I wore it with red linen peek-a-boo pumps.  The dress was imbued just the type of cloaking mechanism a teenaged needed for her first receptionist job.  When I put on that dress and those shoes, I was efficiency and friendliness personified in my little receptionist box; answering an incessantly ringing phone as big as toaster oven, its big plastic buttons flashing urgent messages to me as I approached my desk in the mornings.

When I hit my stride as a real boss, it was the era of the power suit — long jackets with padded shoulders and short slim skirts above the knee.  I owned one from Saks — again thanks to Mom — that was a creamy pale blush silk with mother of pearl buttons.  I wore it with  an ivory shell and paired it with a pair of nude stockings and nude pumps.  I spent a small fortune on Hanes control top panty hose in those day to wiggle into those body hugging skirts. The suit was pulled from the closet for high level meetings with the president of the college or presentations to the Board.  I was smart, sassy, outspoken and deserving of that big promotion despite the lack of any real experience running an admissions office.  The blush suit telegraphed that I was managing it all — a two year old at home, a new marriage, a big job. The suit was as short-lived as the promotion.  It must have gone to Goodwill after I had my second child.  It had become silent and unimportant in my life.

Maybe it was family life that makes it impossible for me to remember any other fancy clothes as clearly as this suit.  The task of dressing in the mornings was rote; performed quickly after a too-short shower, heart pounding and skipping beats from early coffee and the anxiety of bus stop, dog walk, lunch money and traffic woes.  Maybe it was the fashion of that era.  Nothing seems memorable and shopping was worse than going to the dentist.  I worked for a Catholic women’s college as an executive at this time and everything about that gray place, including my fashion, could be described as “dowdy.”  I made bad fashion mistakes, purchasing a linen suit so that I looked like David Byrne on his big suit tour, or buying shoes from Payless.  Thinking that the cheap white long-sleeved polyester blouse from Loehman’s wouldn’t feel like saran wrap when the static radiator heat pumped into my gothic office in mid-winter.

How many bad black winter coats did I go through?  Why did I feel the need to do such damage to my feet?  Bloody heels, such narrow toe boxes that my feet had to unfurl in in my slippers while I cooked the evening meal.  How come I still can’t find a decent pair of black wool trousers?

This past month I’ve transitioned my wardrobe to winter things, bringing out my remaining sweaters, all six of them, only two worn consistently.  The other four are from my past life working in much more conventional places where I didn’t sweat a lot or have to get up and down on the floor. This year, I’m letting go of those sweaters along with the gray wool trousers with pant legs as wide as Trump’s and a back-gap that lets the breeze into my ass crack when I sit down.  I’ll finally bid adieu to the kicky black wool skirt and the polyester wrap dress from Dress Barn, bought more than 20 years ago. Also:  the open-toed, four-inch strappy heels.

My minimalist dream is that eventually all my clothes will fit in one drawer. It is slowly turning out to be that way thanks to my new life as a yoga teacher.  My clothes are a cross between a uniform and a coverall for a life of practice. I have chosen to dress for my most authentic self. And that beautiful dress in the store window? Not on me, not any longer, but it does take up some space in my imagination and in my journal this week.

 

 

 

Transitions/Transmissions

IMG_1388

Magpie. Mixed media on canvas. 30″ x 30″

Last month, I spent time in all my classes unpacking this quote, which Pema Chodron writes so eloquently about in The Wisdom of No Escape:

Keep the sadness and the pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the joy and the vision of the great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.  

Chodron says that when we can remain aware of suffering — not in a state of denial about it, and not drowning in it — then all of life, everything we do becomes a sacred ritual. I’ve asked my students to view their asana practice from this place, experiencing, living, cherishing each joyful and challenging moment on the mat.

A1FC5E8D-452D-48E7-AEDC-A2F26394C08E

The Story of Tummo and Abel. Mixed media accordian book.

Now it is time for me to live fully into this practice. Throughout the past year or so I’ve spent my creativity establishing a new way of being in my teacher’s seat and being in sangha. Now that Yoga=Union has been incorporated and I have a Board and volunteers to bring this vision to fruition, it is time to return to my own proper cup of tea and find the time to integrate art-making back into my journey once again.

These are the last pieces I made as I completed by 300 hour certification in 2017. The crows called me to make a nest for a proper practice, to play in the wind of change and pierce the veil between experience and true self.  I followed my heart. More transmissions to come, I’m sure.

E97BD354-6FC6-4456-BD4C-50F6309257DF

Dhumavati Ma. Mixed media on canvas. 10″ x 10″

Cooperative — more a way of life than a business model

Yoga Equals

Big news.  We’ve had our first official Board Meeting and we’ve drafted our Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.  From a foundation of compassion and inclusion, we will offer quality teaching and support to professional yoga teachers through transformative programs including continuing education.

As we take this step, we will change our name.  We are no longer the DC Yoga Co-op.

Why abandon this name?  First, we want to avoid confusion with two wonderful online communities of yoga teachers in the region.  The Yoga Co-op DC and the DC Yoga Teachers Collaborative are doing great work getting the practice out to people in the community, communicating workshops and classes and offering a forum for teachers to pose important questions and receive answers from peers.

Secondly, a cooperative is a very specific business model and as we have worked with teachers in the community, we see that our aims and purposes as an organization are much more charitable and educational than profit or benefit sharing.  There is so much more we can do together to bring quality yoga teaching and transformative education to local communities.

Finally, we’re here to serve communities and teachers from around the region — not just the city. (And maybe even farther beyond? Dream big, we say.)

We chose a name that reflects the passion we have for in-person community and the connection we have through this practice.  We wanted to reflect the fact that the word yoga comes from the Sanskrit seed word “yuj” meaning “yoke.”  Right in the middle of our name, we placed a symbol of what excites us mostan equals sign that is a constant reminder to break down barriers that divide us as yogis, yoga teachers and as people on this earth.

Dear friends and colleagues: I introduce you to Yoga=Union, for short in conversation: Yoga Union.

Yoga Teachers: want to be part of Yoga=Union?  Sign up here for news and information you need as a teacher, like debriefs of educational events – you have our promise that we won’t spam and we won’t share your information.  And follow us on Facebook and Instagram for information on upcoming social and educational events.

Next:  More Norma…Ray of Light. What Yoga=Union will do for local communities and yoga teachers.

On Insta soon:  Meet our Board and hear their thoughts and aspirations.

 

Significance of Touch

Tony RobbinsBy now, we’ve all seen and heard self-help guru Tony Robbins tie a noose of ignorance around his own neck at his $3,000 weekend conference and then swing in the hot winds of swift societal condemnation. As someone who uses the power of touch to teach in my yoga classes, I was struck by the significance of using touch to illustrate his point in this clip. (If you don’t have 11 minutes to spend on this cringe-inducing video, just forward to 3.29 to see this part.)

He illustrates his point with touch — asking his “student” to make a fist and then pressing on it with his hand, asking all the while, “why are you resisting?” as she backs away from him. It is menacing, considering that he is the voice of authority in the arena and he is over 6 feet tall.  It is humiliating, since he upbraids her verbally and when this doesn’t seem to change her mind, he asks her to come to him for this instruction.  It is inhumane, since he doesn’t for even try to empathize or connect with her as a fellow traveler on this planet.  He has his power, his prestige, his persona — barriers to the human experience.

Thanks to the #metoo movement and the consciousness it has raised in our society, I see this video with even more depth than I would have before.  The sexism would have made me mad at the age of 13, but with the #metoo movement and the facts I’ve learned about the trauma of harassment and sexual violence, I am appalled that Robbins didn’t for one moment think about what trauma his touch might trigger in this woman.

As a yoga teacher who was trained in and expected to perform hands-on assists,  the #metoo movement has made me want to examine my own philosophy about touch in the classroom.  The DC Yoga Co-op’s first event, Hands-On Assists in the Era of #Metoo will present a panel discussion of seasoned local yoga teachers and therapists with a variety of philosophies about touch so that we can learn about, and set or reconnect with our intentions about this aspect of our teaching. Continuing education credits will be available to those who ask for them. To register for this event or to become a member of the DC Yoga Co-op, please click here.

The DC Yoga Co-op was launched this month. We’ve got a big vision: to keep local DC yoga communities alive and well in an increasingly corporate yoga climate by offering topical, innovative and interesting continuing education programming taught by local DC yoga and mindfulness teachers, helping us to become better leaders in our communities and teachers for the people who need yoga the most. To join, please click here.

 

Empowerment: It Does a Body Good

giphy

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves..standing on their own two feet, and ringing on their own bells…

A good friend posted a question about what songs she should use for her yoga playlist in honor of International Women’s Day.  I was shocked that this song, with Annie Lenox and Aretha Franklin, didn’t come up on her feed.  But then again, this video debuted in 1985, and a few of her friends might have been in elementary school when it hit the charts.  At Mount Vernon College’s Friday happy hours in the pub, this song and “It’s Raining Men” could get us all to our feet screaming the lyrics and sloshing beers. Those were heady days.  At a women’s college, the education we received not only imparted knowledge to benefit our careers, it also gave us the wisdom to discern how strong we really truly are. We were empowered to make decisions, to lead, to inspire and…to dance together.

The DC Yoga Co-op looks to offer the same type of learning environment to yoga teachers in the DC region.  At our last meeting, we decided to focus our attention on being the very best teachers we can be, to keep our focus on learning from and supporting each other, and taking yoga to communities that need it most. Continuing education is a huge part of what we do in our lives as teachers, and unfortunately the current studio/corporate system isn’t set up to offer the education we need to make us better teachers.  There is very little time or resources for studios to offer continuing education exclusively to their teaching staff. Studio workshops have to “sell” beyond the limited market of yoga teachers and so things that are interesting to us but perhaps not interesting to practitioners are rarely offered.  Some studios focus bring in a national “name” teacher to offer a workshop, but these are pretty expensive and very rarely open exclusively to yoga teachers.

But what if we could do it for ourselves?  What if those of us who have plenty of years of teaching experience…who have received advanced training in yoga therapy… who are registered continuing education providers…who have a particular expertise… who teach a special population…what if we taught each other? 

This is what we decided we could do as a first step in the DC Yoga Co-op — empower ourselves, empower each other.  For just a small fee each year, Co-op members will receive free continuing education that is focused on elevating teaching skills. Our first event, planned for the end of April, will focus on physical assists in the era of the #metoo movement and a growing understanding of trauma-informed teaching.  Our goal is to help participants  examine, or re-examine, their own philosophy about assisting through touch.  We plan to have a panel that represents different styles and assisting philosophies to discuss this topic and time for discussion and socializing.

More details to come mid-month.  Let me know if you have the perfect person for this panel, a venue or a question to ask panelists.  I’ll write more about the details soon.

 

 

 

Union

Today is not a day to stay in bed. We are all connected.  When one heart grieves, another feels the same pain.  So today, I’m getting up and preparing myself to assist those who grieve, who have been triggered, those who feel hopeless, those who want to start “doing yoga” and decided this week was the best time to start.  I know from my own practice that in the calm and equanimity of the mat or meditation cushion – one can peel away tribalism, nihilism, fatalism, egoism…all the isms and glimpse true self and by extension, profound connection to other.  There is peace in union.

I’m a yoga teacher. The events of the past week show me just how important it is to demonstrate that yoga means union, and my colleagues in the DC Yoga Co-op are unified in our desire to elevate the teaching practice in 2018.  How? We plan to build a lively, informed, intelligent, in-person community to teach each other best practices in our profession and to make time and space in which to develop our own teaching philosophies and voices that are so desperately needed. To connect, grow, enliven, transform. If you are a yoga teacher or a serious practitioner, we welcome you at our meeting today at the SW Branch of the DC Public Library from 2:30 – 4:30 pm.  If you can’t come out today because you are teaching – bless you and your work.  We’ll keep you top of mind as we place another seal of commitment in the practice and to each other.

Resonance

IMG_3734This is the beautiful new group of yoga teacher trainees (and the awesome Amanda Joy, anatomy teacher, in the blue tank top at the bottom left) at Refresh Yoga Center in Alexandria, VA.  Part of my journey as a teacher has been to step into a role of teaching yoga teachers, and I have worked diligently to honor the long lineage of wisdom that informs our practice, and to prepare this group for their calling as teachers. (Having spent the last couple of months really thinking through what makes a quality teacher with people involved in the DC Yoga Co-op, I really need to nail this!)

Last weekend I taught about the subtle body, using the work of Anodea Judith and Carolyn Myss as my foundation with a good dose of what I had learned from Kristin Leal at Tranquil Space. When we got to the vishuddha chakra, the energy center associated with communication and creativity,  we discussed the idea that communication is the connecting principle that makes life possible — atoms, cells, you and me — we’re all giving and receiving in a dance of vibration, sometimes finding that sweet spot of resonance, what Judith calls “sympathetic vibration.”  This teacher training group is a prime example of resonance.  They bonded from the moment they met, sharing food, laughter, questions and answers, funny and tender stories, honest feedback, quick tips, and the joy and exhaustion of that very first team taught yoga class.

This past month has been an embarrassment of riches in resonance for me. Not only do I continue to meet yoga teachers and practitioners who have heard about the DC Yoga Co-op and want to share their stories, skills, and advice with me, our group met to manifest this concept one step closer to reality on January 21 and at the end of the meeting it was as if we were an orchestra that nailed that last dramatic note in the score.

Anodea Judith speaks of the visshuddha chakra as the place where the downward energy of the upper chakras move abstract ideas toward real-life manifestation. Here, we can articulate these concepts symbolically, placing necessary boundaries and limitations on them with words so that others can understand. After only three hours of work on January 21, our group arrived at a place where we could articulate the DC Yoga Co-op’s vision for the first year of work, a framework of our idea of community.

There is more work to be done, for sure.  But in the resonance of the basement of the SW Branch of the DC Public Library on a warm mid-winter afternoon, we could hear the sound we will make as a group and it was beautiful and powerful.  Read our notes from the meeting and let us know how you want to be involved in developing this concept for  compassionate, inclusive community that has quality teaching and transformational education at its core into a reality.