Kripalu = Compassion

Compassion is my word for the new year. It was like our teacher was speaking directly to me during my most recent drop-in yoga class at Balance Wellness Studio on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Our instructor, Brian is a Kripalu trained teacher who volunteers at Balance every Sunday afternoon to teach a gentle by-donation class to the community.

I try to be compassionate to others, give to the needy when I can, love on people who are hurting, listen when a friend needs it…but why is it so hard to have compassion for myself? This is my yoga practice for the year – to be more compassionate to myself.

During practice, each time Brian suggested that we take a moment to look within, to see what our mind was doing and how our bodies were feeling I was aghast by what was going on within me. Over and over again I was feeling that I needed to do the poses better, push further, extend more, try HARDER…..Instead of just relaxing, letting myself BE. Not very compassionate.

Compassion is important in other parts of our lives as well as our yoga practice. How do you speak to yourself inside your head? Do you speak badly about parts of your body? Do you say to yourself, “If only I were (fill in the blank) smarter, taller, thinner, prettier? Do you hold yourself accountable for things that really are not your fault? Do you apologize incessantly to make others feel better? Do you do things for others that you really don’t want to do? Do you have a hard time telling others no? Do you find at the end of the day that you gave up everything you wanted to do for someone or something else?

What about forgiveness? Do you hold on to things that happened in the past? Do you continue to punish yourself for mistakes or bad choices? Do you punish yourself by continual mental flagellation?

Being compassionate with ourselves is a practice. It’s something we have to do in small steps.  Find a little time in your day to do something for yourself – then guard that time. Don’t give it up easily. Let that time be yours for a cup of tea, some time on your mat, meditation, coloring or whatever it is that YOU love. When we take time to take care for ourselves that will help us be more ready, capable and balanced to help others when they need it.

If you don’t take care of you, who will?

Thanks for the the reminder, Brian! I needed it!

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2MPower Yoga

Dropping in to a yoga studio is rapidly becoming one of the funnest things I get to do. I meet teachers for the first time, see the way they interact with their students, steal any good vocal tips or asana variations and then I get to tell you all about it! My most recent drop-in was in Brunswick GA. The all-knowing Guru told me that there is a by-donation class on Sunday at 2MPower Yoga!

I love studios that offer a by-donation class. It lets me know that they are community minded and aware that not everyone can afford a normal drop-in rate or a monthly membership. It also gives community members a chance to get a “glimpse” of what this studio is like – are the teachers warm and welcoming? Is the class format easy to follow etc.

Our instructor for the night Robin, is a friendly, tiny bit of a thing with a million watt smile and the energy of the sun held tightly in control. She lets us know that this will not be a heated class but that she promises to get us nice and warm anyway. 2Mpower is a studio that follows the Baptiste style and it did NOT take us long to get warm – let me tell you!

At one point, about halfway through practice we were directed to move into Eagle pose – not an asana that is easy for me. I worked it though! Right leg tightly woven and wrapped around the left, left arm over the right intertwined, elbows up at shoulder height, drishti forward to a spot not occupied by a moving human, swaying, sweat dripping down my nose……holding……holding……holding…..OMG HOLDING!!!! And then dear, sweet Robin invited us to allow some softness into our standing leg….and I SWEAR it took super human strength NOT to say out loud…”YOU allow some softness into your standing leg!” Or “OH Thanks, thanks a lot!” I did chuckle out loud a bit though.

It made me wonder what types of things MY students think when I am instructing them through a tough and then tougher asana. I’m sure I get a lot of this type of “mental back talk” LOL. So it was funny to hear it coming from myself for a change.

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( I didn’t take any pics that day – so here’s a random shot of me!)

The class was very challenging and I totally loved every freaking moment of it. I love a teacher who will push you, ask you for more, give you grace if it’s not in your arsenal for today and smile and laugh right along with you the whole time. Robin even said she wished she could be practicing with us and I wanted to move over and give her some room on my mat!!!!!

The next day I was feeling my body all over in ALL the right places! My core, the back of my thighs and bum, my shoulders and arms. I felt strong and powerful. Like I had worked hard and my body was grateful for it! It made me want MORE. It made me want to practice more and isn’t that what we all want in a yoga class? A teacher that inspires us, makes it ok to laugh and makes us want to practice more!

So I recommend 2MPower Yoga in Brunswick, Georgia. Come try out a class. They’ll kick your ass and you’ll love them for it!

Integral Yoga Gibraltar

I had been in Gibraltar for two weeks and I was yearning for a yoga class. I was trying to practice on my own but you know how THAT goes. Time flies, activities get in the way, tourist sights beckon so practice became few and far between. I looked up yoga in Gibraltar on the internet and found Integral Yoga. It looked good. My only worry was the yogis in the pictures were wearing all white flowing garments and my yoga clothes consist of tight pants in multicolors! I was going to look like a peacock in a field of snow but I was determined to go anyway.

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It took some time to find the studio in the warren of narrow cobble-stoned streets that is Gibraltar. The room was long and narrow and totally packed! A few friendly yogis moved their mats apart so I could squeeze in. I counted two rows of 13 along the outer walls and a few squeezed in between the rows! Michelle, our teacher for the night has been teaching for over 20 years and WAS wearing all white but everyone else was wearing normal yoga gear so I fit right in!

Michelle’s message for the night was to practice Ahimsa with ourself. She reminded us that sometimes we strive too much and can harm our bodies. She cautioned us to be gentle, take it easy and rest when needed. Her voice filled the crowded room easily. I found I could close my eyes and imagine it was only she and I. Her beautiful spanish accent making each asana sound more magical than usual.

At Integral Yoga the teachers do not get paid to teach. The students are asked to donate what they can afford. It is suggested 5 euros per week – which is about $7.50. The money that is collected is then sent to charities that are sponsored by the Integral Yoga School.

This is very different from how we do things in America. Yoga is big business with studios being supported by the monthly fees they collect from their students not to mention all of the expensive yoga gear they sell! Yoga studios are also now producing class after class of yoga instructors who each pay around $3,000 to earn their certification. My question is where are all these teachers going to teach? Soon there will be more teachers than students!

I have been trying to make a living by solely teaching yoga and fitness classes for over 3 years and I have found it almost impossible. My body can only physically handle teaching about 10 classes per week and at a maximum pay of $25 per class (It’s usually more like $15) That is only $250 per week. Also I have had to hustle to find classes to teach. I have been teaching at a retirement home, a private gym and a parks & rec department of a city all at the same time just to try to make enough money! Most yoga teachers I know have a full time job and then only teach yoga part time.

Is it wrong for us to be cashing in on yoga in America? Should yoga be shared as they do in Gibraltar by donation? I know I’m going to have to find some other way to make a living. As much as I love teaching yoga I just can’t afford food, shelter and clothing for $250 per week. I will keep teaching because I love it. I have even fostered yoga by donation classes in several locations because I believe there should be options for people who can’t afford a $15 drop in fee. It seems to me that we are squeezing our clients for more and more cash and those who cannot afford the expense are told, “No Yoga for YOU!”

It’s something to think about isn’t it?

Check out Integral Yoga and their philosophy here: here: http://www.integralyogagib.com/