As I was walking out of Yoga One studio on a lovely July day in San Diego, a posted flyer caught my eye. “Summer Challenge- Complete 20 classes in 30 days- Ends August 30th.”
At first I thought, “Oh, another one of those trendy challenges.” I’m not usually one to go for public challenges just because a business tells me to. Instead, I prefer to set my own goals and beat to the rhythm of my own drum. I tried to dismiss the thought, but a little voice inside of me nudged me to think a little deeper about this concept.
Before completing my 200-RYT, I was attending at least 3-4 classes a week as a member at Yoga One from 2012 to 2015. Since then, I had been focusing more on my home practice. However, my home practice was focused mostly on preparing my weekly sequence for my Level 1 & 2 Vinyasa Flow classes. Sometimes at home, I would get distracted with emails and chores and minimize my yoga time. Therefore, I wasn’t really challenging myself to develop in harder poses. Deep down, I knew that I still need to improve my tripod headstand and hurdler. These are at least my immediate goals. A little voice inside of me said, “This is your chance to improve on these poses.”
B.K.S. Iyengar declares in the Tree of Yoga, “It is relatively easy to be a teacher of an academic subject, but to be a teacher in art is very difficult, and to be a yoga teacher is the hardest of all, because yoga teachers have to be their own critics and correct their own practice.”
200H-RYT Class of Spring 2015
Iyengar further educates, “Teachers must always be learning. They will learn from their pupils and must have the humility to tell them that they are still learning their art.”
It’s easy to get stuck teaching the same postures with the same ques. By attending other teacher’s classes, we gain a broader perspective and expand our verbal cues.
Since I finished my Teacher Training here at Yoga One in April of 2015, I was offered the opportunity to teach a free (that developed into a donation) class for nine months. My teaching strengths include creatively themed classes, meditations, and balancing poses. Now I teach Yoga One’s outdoor rooftop yoga class at Hotel Solamar every Sunday morning from 9-10am. Further, I’ve been practically religious about attending one class a week as the lead instructor and owner of the studio, Amy Caldwell, suggested for teachers to do to broaden their insight.
The other voice in my head said, “Hannah, you are way too busy right now. You can barely keep up with writing your weekly blog, editing your audio blog, editing your book, planning your women’s retreat, posting to social media, planning out your class sequences and playlists, designing new yoga leggings, responding to emails, teaching private piano and art lessons, and working full time at the restaurant. With each class running for 60-75 minutes plus the 15 minute walk each way to the studio, that’s almost 2 hours a day! Plus you still have to teach 3 classes a week! How can you possibly fit in attending 5 classes a week? How are you going to find the energy for that as well?”
Timing was my number one challenge. I decided that I wanted to make this a priority. As a teacher, we should never stop learning, even in our physical personal practice. So, my next time at the studio on August 1st, I grabbed the little worksheet and checked off my first class. At the beginning of each week, I plugged into my schedule the class that fit best for each weekday. I did sacrifice free time of social activities, reading, and designing new leggings, but these actions can resume later.
The first two weeks seemed really challenging. Maybe it was just hot, but I was sweating a lot, challenging myself to take every chaturanga that I could, while maintaining my ease of breath and alignment. However, the last week seemed like a breeze. Now that its over, I’m feeling so much stronger and more flexible in both my physical practice and teaching perspective. I’ve also shed a few pounds as I’m fitting more comfortably in my clothes.
I am pleased to say that I used my improved core and arm strength to float in hurler and tripod headstand. Even if only for a second, I now have the confidence and muscle memory to build on these poses for longer holds at home. In addition, I’ve adopted some new cues and transitions to teach in my upcoming classes. I will be using these lessons in my themed classes this week, so join us at Fun Yoga.
Further, every day in August, I enjoyed the peace and calm that comes from this meditative process of mind/body connection. My desire to drink diminished considerably and I look at small problems with a refreshed perspective.
The following are the lessons that I learned in August from Yoga One's amazing instructors:
Photo Credit: San Diego Union Tribune
Never Stop Learning
Amy Caldwell, co-owner of Yoga One and twice featured on the cover of Yoga Journal, is a beacon of light. She emanates joy from every angle as she is never seen without a smile. After over 20 years of yoga practice, she is able to bend her body in ways that I didn’t know was possible. As a teacher, she emphasizes “playing” around with difficult poses. She offers options with blocks and straps to begin to open up each body to the possibility of getting the pose someday, but mostly it’s all about the journey.
Husband to Amy and also the co-owner of Yoga One, Michael offers an everyday approach to yoga. Through jokes and references to popular culture, he leads the class through alignment-based intense stretches that he likes to call “Brussel Sprouts.” These essential postures might not always “taste” the best while we are doing them, but they offer the ease that we need in our everyday life and more challenging yoga poses. Through deep breathing, we stretch our wrists, feet arches, and shoulders as well as building core and arm strength. My favorite postures in his class were the subtle airport stretches for our shoulders, using the wall, as he imitated waiting around in an airport and joked about the individuals who make a scene doing Downward Facing Dog in the center of the waiting area. I laughed because I love doing subtle yoga in the airport.
Photo Credit: Yoga One San Diego
Amy Freeman has been teaching yoga for almost 15 years. Amy’s goal is to help her students find and maintain a peaceful mind and body through effort and ease and she leads as a beautiful example. She starts each class with a slow meditation and develops in to a powerful alignment flow. One of the most unique prompts that Amy gives during Savasana (final resting pose), is reminding us to relax each part of our body individually. “Feet, knees, legs…relax. Hips, back, shoulders…relax. Ears, nose, tongue…relax. Eyelids, eyebrows, space between your eyebrows…relax. Forehead, scalp, chin…relax. Everything relax.”
I’ve been going to Sarah’s class for years. There’s a familiarity and sense of home in the setting that she offers. Her playlist is always the same, but sets just the right mood for connecting your mind and body through sounds. Every week she sets a different inner focus on non-reaction, compassion, or contentment. She has guided me through detailed alignment adjustments as well as encouraging me to pause at the end of every exhale, or squeeze my glutes. During every class at some point she will remind us to soften our tongue and not hold tension in our face, but instead to breathe deeply through any slight discomfort.
Kairou is an enthusiastic and energetic instructor. I attended her class after hearing students say that they got their butt kicked in her class. They were not kidding. Her classes are filled with intense arm strengthening repetitions and core poses. She creates an interesting flow with side plank and tiger variations that will build your sweat quickly. One day she started class with explaining how sometimes we struggle through a yoga class because we forget to eat or drink enough water. She said that she came to this realization this morning when she was light-headed after practicing this sequence. Then, about halfway through teaching the class she corrected herself and admitted, “or maybe this sequence is just really that hard!” However, because of these intense sequences, I have been able to use my new core strength lift into tripod from the center of a room. Also, as a Licensed Massage Therapist, she surprised me with a totally relaxing Savasana massage!
Dina has a strong voice of a leader that reminds you to breathe. In her class, I feel that we hold poses a bit longer than in some of the other classes that I attend. However, she challenges me to find the ease in this stillness, after I’ve found my expression of the pose with some tension. This inner concentration is the key part of yoga called Dharana that leads to peace and oneness.
Missy has a warm and friendly way of teaching. In the past, I’ve attended her Classic Yoga and Restorative Yoga classes. She gives beautiful hands-on adjustments and she is always aware of the student’s desire to receive, asking first if it is okay to adjust, and asking after how it felt. She recently subbed for a Level 2 Vinyasa Flow class as her focus was building up our forearm and shoulder strength for Forearm-Stand. Throughout class, she directed us to take child’s pose after dolphin and forearm-plank reps. This was a much needed rest and I appreciate her direction. If she would have just offered child’s pose as an option to something else, I probably would have tried to push myself too hard and skip the child’s pose. But the truth was, that I needed to rest my shoulders and catch my breath. I thank Missy for foreseeing that necessity and allowing a space of non-competition.
I’ve only been to Lori’s class a couple of times, but I thoroughly enjoy her nurturing teaching style. I attended her class after feeling sharp pains in my shoulders, from the previous day’s class. Before class she asked me if I had any requests. I told her about my shoulders and then she included many shoulder opening poses throughout her planned sequence, each time asking me if that felt good. Lori stressed patience, allowance, and self-love. She once again reminded me why I love this community of amazing teachers!
Inspired by an extensive background in the movement arts (Acro-Yoga, Tai Chi, Contact Improv Dance, African Dance, and Rhythmic Gymnastics), Mara creates new poses as we constantly flow with our breath. I feel like a dancer in her class as she radiates the beauty of being one with your body. In Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose with the variation in wide leg stretch, she instructed us to reach up and feel that our knees are facing the same direction and protruding for the same amount. Mara highlights the importance of being balanced and equally stretched on both sides.
I admire Zaquia for her intricate choice of words throughout her class. She has a detailed understanding of human anatomy and she strongly underlines the concept of the greater your effort, the greater your reward. She teaches a power flow, connecting breath with movement, in the early morning that quickly awakens my heart and concentration. From her I’ve learned Fallen Tree and seen that it is possible to rise from Low Squat, Malasana, to Bird of Paradise, Svarga Dvijasana, using a strong balanced core. She has inspired me to take the extra charturanga.
I only went to one of Terri’s classes during this month, but I enjoyed her emphasis on stretching with the blocks and straps. Instead of giving us the option to use block or not, she gave solid instructions to use the block even if you think you don’t need it. The flow was slow and she accentuated the importance of closing your eyes and focusing on your steady breath in each pose. She used a variety of interesting transitions to slide from one pose to another. I ended up feeling lengthened and spacious throughout my day.
From the official Yoga One website:
“Yoga One offers a welcoming, safe and non-competitive environment. In 1997 co-founders Amy & Michael Caldwell quit their jobs in the Hollywood music business to explore different cultures and philosophies. They backpacked around the world for three and a half years and visited 15 countries. eventually studying in India with some of the country’s top yoga masters. Since 2002 award-winning Yoga One has helped thousands of San Diego residents, visitors, businesses and schools enjoy healthier and happier lives.”
Photo Credit: Yoga One San Diego
I was only able to attend classes from about half of Yoga One’s Instructors in August, mostly due to scheduling. However, I believe that all of the 24 instructors are amazing, even if you weren’t mentioned here.
I hope that this blog post has inspired you to continue to learn and find time to do yoga everyday!
And.. here's my latest Yoga Leggings design for Yoga Everyday!