yoga teacher

Doing it differently: Yoga School

yoga props

"Because that's the way it's always been done" is a terrible reason to keep doing something the same way.

As is, "but that's how everyone else does it."

For about a month now, I've had this persistent nudge to change the format of the current "Teacher Training."

Yes, I've trained many teachers and will continue to do so in the upcoming program this fall.

But what if you don't want to be a teacher? What if you just want that level of education, support, commitment and, frankly, fun?

In the past, I've tried describing Teacher Training as Life Training (as many past students have called it). I make the language as welcoming and permissive as I can to those who don't want to teach. This program is for everyone.

But why should they have to pay the same amount and have the same intensive homework and requirements? I created a yearlong program (The Daily Craft) with the intention of giving a similar opportunity to non-teachers. But nothing is like the 5 month immersion of TT.

So...the persistent nudge was, how can I make this available to people who don't want to teach?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, in plain view, just behind the veil of but this isn't how it's done.

I'm so pleased to announce a rename and restructure to the Yoga education program I'm offering.

It's called Yoga School. There are two tracks: Personal and Professional.

Check it out.

 

memories

Like many people, at the end of every year I do a general review of how things have gone the past 12 months and some dreaming and scheming for the coming seasons.

This has been especially helpful in business -- assessing what programs and events were well received, which did not go over so hot and what new things I want to create.

As I did my review of 2017, selling the studio was a major focus under the headings of triumphs and changes and biggest gifts. 

It also made me feel a little nostalgic and the memories have overflowed, especially memories of the early days.

 

My stepdaughter was 8 when It's All Yoga opened. She's 21 now. Our whole family was "in the business"... carting, washing and folding endless towels; checking in every class on the paper cards we used for class passes; cleaning, promoting and caring for the studio daily.

I taught 12 classes a week, both at the studio and on-site at a local law office. All while working a full-time job as a business consultant. After two years, I made the scary leap to full-time business owner. At the time, it was a huge risk for our family and opened us to a wonderful simplicity of time and resources. It also forced me to develop (a small amount of) business savvy, expand my creativity and eventually grow into a larger space.

At our first location on 11th Avenue, we had a quirky neighborhood coffee shop next door. Espresso Metro was the perfect pre- or post-yoga hang out. Which was great, except for the dogs tied outside our windows who would start barking or the people who would congregate for long (and loud) goodbyes. I thought it was my job to protect the perfect container of peace in which the students could practice. I have since learned that the "noise" is a part of the practice, not in opposition to it.

michelle marlahan at it's all yoga

Our 2nd birthday was quite a party. Southside Art School had an art show and their band performed. There was, of course, cake. And somehow, the evening culminated with fire dancers. Cervantes Park across the street held all of our birthday parties, as well as a community arts fair, poetry classes, innumerable Yoga in the Park and 4 R Friends benefit classes, many with coordinating bake sales. It was always fun when the sprinklers would come on in the middle of a down dog.

southside art show
fire dancers
yoga in the park

Our second location came at the last moment possible. I had already declined renewing the lease on 11th but had not found a new place. A friend had been shopping at the antique store at 21st and X and got to talking with the owner, Steve, about the "annex," which is now the studio space. He was trying to pare down inventory and wanted to sublet. It had concrete floors, florescent lighting and the most disgusting bathroom you've ever been in. We renovated in less than 20 days.

before remodel
a big pile
before remodel
outside painting
it's all yoga

So many memories....

In those 12 years, It's All Yoga held people through personal transformations, diagnoses, births and deaths, marriages and divorces, job changes and moves. It's been more central to people lives, friendships, health and sense of "place" than I could have every imagined. What a blessing to have been a part of it.

 

yoga philosophy for today

You know the phrase, "You get better at what you practice?"

The follow up to this truth is the real wisdom: "So be careful what you practice."

The spiritual path is hard work, and sometimes it's lonely. 

But we do it because we want to grow and learn and evolve as human beings. We want practical support for the things life throws our way.

We do it together because we need each other's support, encouragement and celebration.

It's essential to have a group and time we can discuss these topics and share stories with people of various ages, backgrounds and life experience. By sharing, we are reminded that we are not alone.

When I put out a feeler to gauge interest in a philosophy "work group," many of you responded!

Topics and texts will vary and we'll do short series style so that it fits into your regular life. This will also be a remote format, using a group video conference, so you can be anywhere and participate. And the sessions will be recorded so you can make up or watch again.

elephants

New Year Philosophy

For our first Yoga Philosophy for Today workgroup, we will explore Yoga Sutra 2.1. The Yoga Sutras are 196 aphorisms compiled by a man named Patanjali around 400 CE. It has become a main text in today's yoga world, with practical yet powerful guidelines for personal growth.

Sutra 2.1 tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah

Especially relevant at the start of the year where our best intentions can create rigidity and pressure -- maybe we let things slide over the holidays due to overwhelm, and then we hit new year's eve and resolve to end all bad habits. Forever.

The Yoga approach is a little different. According to sutra 2.1, it goes like this: 

Commit your attention and action, increase your knowledge and understanding through this awareness, and then surrender.

Specifically...

Commit — Show up with your attention every day, whether it's on the mat, the cushion, in your relationships, to yourself, in the moment. This is discipline. It's the action behind intention. It's also love (courtesy of Mary Oliver, If you love something, you pay attention to it).

Awareness is learning from the information you get, it's honesty and realism, it's reflecting on yourself (your Self). 

Surrender (which can be a loaded word, so you might try yield or release) is letting go of the fruits of your actions. Doing the work (committing attention, action and awareness), then setting it free. Surrender is drenched in compassion.

The cocktail of these three qualities is the practice of Yoga.
It takes effort.
It is not linear. 
It's simple but not easy.
And it is never ever "done."

Awareness, action, surrender.

roses

Series Details

This series is for you if you:

  • love philosophy
  • want practical guidance that relates to today's issues
  • struggle at the beginning of the year
  • desire more support and community in your practice
  • are a serious/curious student of yoga and want to learn more
  • are a teacher and want a deeper understanding of yoga philosophy

This is a three-part online series meeting once a month for three months to explore the brilliant trifecta sutra 2.1 offers.

We will use an online video "classroom," so internet connection and a web-accessible device are required.

We will be able to see each other, interact and ask questions. Like being together, but you can be in your pajamas.

In this series, you will receive:

  • relatable handouts and readings
  • homework - reflection and writing prompts
  • a general overview of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
  • ideas on how to work with each aspect of sutra 2.1
  • another layer of understanding about philosophy (it takes time to integrate these principles)
  • the foundation for a lifelong practice grounded in compassion
  • email support in between calls

Classroom sessions will include:

  • guided exercises and discussions
  • clear and practical interpretations -- philosophy does not have to be complicated!
  • community with like-minded people
  • practicality -- instantly useable principles
  • fun -- it has to be!

Meeting Dates:

February 25, 1-2:30 pm
March 25, 1-2:30 pm
April 22, 1-2:30 pm

Price: $55

Register here.

Come Together

Sharing ideas, lending a hand, offering silent support -- these are the things I've seen over and over that make a difference, make us feel less alone and give strength in the moments of hardship.

Yoga philosophy can be practical, relevant and instantly usable. Join me in discovering more about the Yoga Sutras and the wisdom of sutra 2.1 -- commitment, awareness, surrender.

 

two things i got wrong

No sure thing

I’ve always appreciated the saying you don’t know what you don’t know, but never more than this.

I was preparing for the Yoga Philosophy series, and I thought I’d double check the pronunciation of Saucha, our concept of the week, which means purity, pure, radiance, to shine, to be bright.

When it comes to yoga, yoga history and sanskrit, Richard Rosen is the go-to guy. So I sent an email to him with a few questions about Saucha, including clarification on how it is pronounced.

S’s in Sanskrit can be a little confusing. There are three sibilants — one is pronounced like our ‘s’ as in such. The other two are pronounced very similarly, both with the “sh” sound, as in should. It depends on the markers on the letter s. This is why savasana is pronounced shavasana — there’s an accent acute on the s, giving it a sh sound.

Turns out there’s also an accent acute on the s in Saucha and I’ve been mispronouncing it for over 20 years. Even teaching it incorrectly. It’s pronounced “show-cha” (the “ow” sounds like the “ou” in “loud”).

This really rocked my world! I pride myself on being a perpetual student, continually learning and fact-checking before I make claims. And here I was spreading misinformation.

This was on the tails of an informative podcast on the word Namaste. I know Namaste is a traditional salutation, but I did not know that it has not historically been used as a closing to a yoga practice. Nope, it’s just another add-on — probably in the mid 20th century — to make yoga more marketable and attractive to a Western audience (or shall we say, consumer).

The lessons we learn from “mistakes” are often the ones that sink in the deepest, and I’m grateful to be able to learn and discover…and be forgiven when I’m wrong (mostly by myself).

So for you….

  • Are there things you thought you knew that turned out to be untrue?

  • A favorite Buddhist mantra is No sure thing. Is there something you could be a little less certain about?

  • Try responding with “I don’t know,” rather than hypothesizing or having an answer. How does that feel?

Would love to hear any stories or thoughts you have!

Michelle

i used to have a "real" job

Some people are surprised by this fact.

They think I was born a Yoga Teacher.

Au contraire. I was a Business Consultant first.

Ya, I’m not really sure what that means either.

It’s said that consultants are sort of good at a lot of things, but not really good at any one thing.

I worked for a company called Synergy Consulting. It was a small, Sacramento firm which contracted solely with State agencies. I was the 96th employee.

My projects included the Department of Health, the Department of Child Support Services, and CalPERS. My responsibilities ranged from Business Process Reviews (making maps for a current workflow and identifying potential inefficiencies or dead-ends) to Data Conversion Mapping (matching pieces of information in one system to their correct location in a new system) to Training (Hi, Department of State Workers, I’m going to train you on this new computer system I know nothing about).

Feeling like I knew nothing was something I was pretty used to. I mean, I faked it for a while. We can do that, you know.

For six years, Synergy (later acquired by AMS, later acquired by CGI) was a wonderful place to work. I was surrounded by people much smarter than me and I knew I would grow because of it. It paid well, I had health insurance, and at the time, job security. My dad was proud.

And yet. And yet.

By the end, I dreaded going to work. I arrived late and left early. The best thing about my day was my outfit.

To boot, for the last year and a half I was running the studio and teaching 10+ classes a week.

My health was declining due not only to physical exhaustion, but also the disparity between my personal integrity and my actions. The body takes on what the mind/heart cannot handle.

I actually thought of closing the studio. Sometimes we imagine it would be easier to completely deny a dream than it would to allow for the changes that would take place should that dream become reality.

Even though I dreamed of devoting myself to the studio and teaching, the lifestyle changes required in order to do that seemed too large. To ask my then-husband to financially support the family (at least for a while) seemed unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be easier to shut that part of myself off, to do the responsible thing.

Thankfully, after much discussion and a near break-down, I decided to retire as a consultant. Every day I am thankful for this decision. (I am such a better yoga teacher than I ever was a business consultant.)

My health gradually improved, my confidence increased, I was more willing to take risks, I was engaged and participating. Not that there haven’t been bumps and unexpected turns, but that’s living, that's being human.

So I’m wondering about you. What dreams do you have? What small step could you make toward that reality? How does your body/spirit respond to denial? Or if you’ve taken a big risk in your life to follow a dream, what has that been like? Even a small victory, like painting the bedroom the color you’ve always wanted.

Part of the richness of life is sharing and telling our stories, being heard. Thank you for listening to mine. I hope to hear from you.