Friday, February 25, 2011

Tink on the Bridge

There's nothing better than a bff.

When I was saying my affirmations this morning I threw an extra one in: "I am so happy and grateful that I am surrounded by like-minded, light bearing friends." And I truly am. During the last few years I have found amazing people in my life. Not just a living guru but several sister-friends, brother-friends, mentors and healers. All beloved by yours truly. Each unique and gifted in their own right. Each called forth by my karma to help me 'work it out'.

But there still is nothing like your very bestest friend. And if you've been following along with me, you know mine by the moniker of Tink. (read our story here)

Even though we live only about an hour or so away from each other, busy lives keep us apart. We have been planning a trip to a fantasy spa in New York for months and are determined to get there in March. She's been there once before and can't help regale me with the details; my mouth drooling. Ice rooms, several whirlpools, steam baths, heated floors.....aaahhhhh! I can't wait! Oh, the stories there will be to tell after that adventure....

We call each other once a week or so. It's the usual friend talk; How's things going on your end? How many classes are you teaching this week? What's new in the physical ailment department? What holistic treatments are you experimenting with for that? And on and on....

One of the most wonderful things about our friendship is that we are both Yoga teachers. Since we met in Yoga school, we received the same basic education in postures and have a similar understanding of asana and their energetics. I'll frequently think about Tink when I'm teaching. I wonder if she leads a posture the same way I do. I'm curious if she'll lead in to an asana the same way I do. I wonder if she has a different understanding of the energetics. We've never taken each other's classes, much to our mutual dismay. Someday.

This morning in my class we were working on setu bandhasana, bridge. During bridge I had an awakening. My upper body was so tight. Why have I been leading the muscle engagement this way all this time?!? I played with adjusting contracted muscles to see if I could still get the chest lift I was looking for while relaxing my torso. It was an experiment, as all Yoga is, but I kept thinking about Tink. I knew she would understand my question and be able to not only relate but also give me other philosophies behind this very complex posture.

So there we were on the phone tonight talking about bridge. I explained my dilemma and described to her how I lead students into bridge. She asked why I don't lead the more difficult arm position for bridge, only the torso part. I explained that I see so many students who are desperate for the 'look' of a full bridge that they'll contort their arms regardless of how poorly the rest of their posture is aligned. I got so tired of over explaining bridge and still seeing this that I just stopped leading arms. There's also my fear factor that someone will get hurt because they think it has to look a certain way.

Tink and I kept on this subject for nearly half an hour. One asana! And we could have gone on longer... There was one moment in this rather serious conversation, though, that made me laugh as only my bff can do. It was when she said, "Wait. I'm in bridge on my kitchen floor." I should have known she would have gotten into the posture. That's what Yoga teachers do. It was easier for her to feel the energetics and my dilemma if she actually could feel it in her body.

It's not unheard of for us to break into postures anywhere when we're together. We'll get on the topic of class, students or asanas and all of a sudden it's spontaneous Yoga! This includes restrooms, restaurants, shops, parking lots, etc. I had to laugh at the thought of us at the fantasy spa, sans Yoga clothes, breaking into asana in the Ice Room.... I told you there would be stories to tell!


It's not the first time that Tink and I have 'been on the bridge' together. We both have the same guru although we received Shaktipat several years apart. One of the post-Shaktipat ceremonies is to throw a coconut into a body of natural water. Weird, I know. I won't get into why you have to do this, but you have to. So after Tink went through Shaktipat we had scheduled a play date. We hadn't seen each other in over a year and a half. We had so much to talk about. She brought her coconut with her. It was a cold winter day and we walked to the nearby bridge over the Naugatuck River . We ceremoniously threw her coconut off the bridge. It made a loud thunk on a rock then floated away downstream. This is a once in all your lifetimes experience and I was honored she allowed me to be there when she did it. We laughed at what the drivers in the cars next to us must have thought. We walked arm in arm off the bridge. Every time I drive over that bridge, I see us there and hear her Shaktipat coconut's thunk.


I guess friends are the bridges of life. There to support you over turbulent waters. There to keep you on the right road. And there to hold you up as you throw your karma downstream.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sh!t I say in class....

Inhale....exhale....stretch...keep mindful.... Yada. Yada. Yada.

We Yoga teachers all have the same basic vocabulary. It's part of the brainwashing process I like to refer to as 'Yoga School'. The magic happens when the words are strung together, during asana (postures), with inflection and personality. Most classes the same spiel is used and it can get very boring when you are saying pretty much the same thing over and over and over. I often wonder if my students get tired of this dribble but then I remember that it's me, not them, who has to listen to me speak at every class...

Sometimes though, true pearls fall out of mouth and I amaze myself. Those are moments I treasure during class and I'll silently tease myself that "I haven't heard that one before!" Then I wonder if I'll remember to use the new phrase again next time I'm leading that certain asana. Many times I don't.

A lot of the language is actually taught in Yoga school but a great deal of it comes out through the asana itself. It is during the times of holding a posture when I intuitively vocalize a stream of consciousness that is generated through the energy of the asana. I have studied Sanskrit and I am a firm believer in the science of it. I strongly feel that it should be used in Yoga class because much of the energy of the posture is actually in the name itself. There are a lot of teachers who don't use the Sanskrit names of postures and feel they don't need to. That's fine for a lot of people but I'm a traditionalist.

I love Sanskrit. It is a mathematical language; genius in it's development and powerful in it's vibrational frequencies. It is beautiful to look at in written form. Chanting the names of the divine in Sanskrit leads to pure bliss. Don't believe that? Check out a Krishna Das kirtan then get back to me. In fact, I can't count the times I have had a new student come up to me at the end of class and ask, "What IS that music you are playing??? I loved it!" Take one look in their glassy eyes and you'll see the power kirtan.

There are days in class when the language won't flow the way I want it. I'll be so tongue tied between English and Sanskrit that I won't know my right hand from my left leg. I can laugh at myself and it's always funnier when the students catch me before I can catch my own flub. Sometimes I get so blissed out that I'll lead them, accidentally, into a physically impossible pose. I'll realize what I've said when I see the looks on their faces trying to figure out what I just asked them to do. My regular students know my shtick, if you will, but the newbies get caught off guard when I make these gaffes. I'll catch myself and the whole class will have a laugh.

My first Yoga teacher, in all the years I studied with her, made only one verbal flub that I ever heard. This made me put so much pressure on myself when I became a teacher. I was so focused on clear speech during class that the first time I got tongue tied I almost cried. Finally I realized that I just needed to be myself regardless of the flubs and the students would just have to come to terms with my humanness.

Every now and then something slips out that isn't a flub that turns into 'Yoga Twister' but just comes out not how I intended. When you are talking about the human body this is pretty easy to do. It's during those awkward moments that I never know how to get myself out of it but just keep going and hope no one holds it against me. Such as the time during an intense asana that I announced to the students, "Now's a good time to explore your body.".....


Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.