Archive for the ‘life’ Category

ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes!

One of the Buddha’s well-known quotes is “nothing is permanent“.  It’s true, with time everything eventually changes.  As humans, we are constantly evolving.  Our physical bodies change over the years.  Our life experiences change how we perceive the world and our everyday relationships.  We have career changes.  Our beloved bank merges with another bank and now there’s a new debit card and website.  Or the best yoga teacher you’ve ever had decides to move to another country.   On top of all this, technology is constantly driving changes in how we shop, communicate and simply live life.

So here’s where my new changes come into play…Almost 7 years now, my easy to set up “yoga blog by abellaYoga” allowed me the freedom to start blogging about anything and everything related to yoga – teaching yoga, questions from students I received, the business of yoga, yoga philosophy, meditation, etc.  Fortunately too, my simple abellaYoga.com website also worked for what I needed during these last several years.  And as much as I held on (with a tight grip!) to keep my simple website and blog running “as is”, it became clear over the  last couple years that big changes in how I presented abellaYoga were looming.  My template-driven website no longer fully represented the professionalism of my mobile yoga service – nor did it express the extent I have grown as a yoga teacher and student in my yoga journey thus far.

So here I am unveiling a new look to abellaYoga.com which includes the abellaYoga blog as being fully integrated into the new web site.  Bad news is if you’ve been subscribing to abellaYoga.wordpress.com, you’ll experience some changes.  For instance, those simple emails you use to receive with my latest blog posts are fading away until I figure out how to set up a new email subscription plug-in/widget/whatever into the abellaYoga.com/blog  Oh yeah, and there’s a new blog address:  abellaYoga.com/blog

Change is great but it often requires patience, particularly on my part as I attempt to live right now in a tech hat instead of on a yoga mat.  So as I navigate through these tech changes over the next few weeks, please be patient.  Check back frequently.  The old blog address will automatically be redirected to the new abellaYoga.com/blog in the next day or so.  I have at least figured that out!

Change can be scary but it’s often exactly what we need to take us to the next stage of health and happiness in all arenas of our lives -personal, professional and spiritual.   Change is inevitable and we’re all going through it more often than not.  It’s best to stay positive, remember you’re not alone and keep in mind nothing last forever.

Melody of abellaYoga has been gratefully teaching yoga full-time in Washington, DC, Alexandria and Arlington, VA since 2006.  Thankful for experiences gained in the telecom/tech corporate world, this ex-marketing, yoga-chick is happy to share all she knows about yoga with all.

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Sh*t Happens, So Be In It

For those of you that know me, this blog post title is probably a surprise.  For those of you that don’t know me well, let me state upfront I don’t curse (well at least not 99.9% of the time).  Thanks to my parents & grandparents, I’m just not a fan of it.  Though I’m sure we can all admit every now and then it’s appropriate because every now and then sh*t happens!

Stuff happens all the time, right?  You’ve made it through airport security and you find out your flight is delayed 3 hours, how do you react?  Or you paid a bill online (on time) but for whatever reason the new statement you just received shows you’re “past due” with a finance charge…what happens?   Or picture this…You’re working on a big project for your company and you find out either a) it’s well exceeded the budget and/or b) a main contributor has just quit (or been fired, transferred, whatever).  Or how about…You wake up on a beautiful Saturday morning geared up for yoga class (dressed in your new lululemon or Athleta with your Manduka in tow) and in route to your neighborhood yoga studio you get a call from a good friend (insert family member, neighbor, whoever) who really needs to talk with you about a rough patch in his/her life.  How do you respond when life throws you a curve and interrupts your pretty plans?

When unexpected things happen, shifts within us happen whether we are aware of them or not.  We have multiple systems within us (think nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system, muscular system, immune system, etc.) that often go haywire simply based on how we chose to respond in the moment.  It’s natural to run the other way or emotionally react – fear, anger, anxiety, loss, etc. – but often this can be unhealthy.  It’s not just bad for our health to emotionally/automatically react but it’s bad for the health of what’s to come next.  We clearly can’t control the external stuff, sh*t and shifts.  What we can control is how we respond (or don’t respond).   When we take control of how we react, we are in control of the internal shifts and space within.

Let’s take it a step further.  I’m a huge believer that things happen for a reason.  So when sh*t happens, it’s better to go with it vs. against it, and not just for physiological reasons.  I’m not saying that you need to agree with it all but take the time to sit in it, be in it.  Be in the the space of “being uncomfortable”.  Be in the space of learning something new.  Be in the space of seeing something different than what you’ve been use to.  Be in the space so you can create new space for you to grow.  Sh*t happens because it’s often serving (not always) as the healthy manure your little seed that the universe planted needs to flourish.

Two personal examples.  First, I wouldn’t be teaching yoga today if I hadn’t been laid off from my last corporate job.  I lived and breathed marketing for over 10 years in various tech/telecom companies.   The truth is I lost my passion for it the last couple years I was doing it.  During that time, I did my first 200-hour yoga teacher training in Washington, DC and started teaching a Sunday morning yoga class at a local gym.  During this time, I never really thought teaching yoga was the end all/be all for me.  It was when I was walked out the door at my last corporate gig, I took it as a sign to sit and be.  I took it as a sign that maybe sitting at a desk all day was not my calling anymore.  It was through the sitting and being that I figured out teaching yoga really was my calling.

Another example is I was recently working on launching a 200-hour yoga teacher training program.  My web designer even created a new webpage for it (that will be up on the new abellaYoga.com website launching in June).  However, the brakes were slammed on the 200-hour teacher training (out of my control) and I took some space to think about it.  I took it as a sign to use this new space to help nourish a little thought-seed that’s been rolling around in my head for a year or so.    As a result, I’m in the midst of creating a yoga teacher guidance program (you could say yoga teacher mentorship program but I don’t like the word mentorship) to answer questions like…What are the differences between teaching private yoga clients vs. studio classes vs. office yoga classes?   Do you “Om” in corporate yoga (office yoga) classes?   Do you offer hands-on assists with private yoga and office clients?   How many classes do I need to teach a week to go full-time?  How much do I charge?  The list of questions is endless so back on subject with the post.

This “being” thing takes practice.  For me, the “being” alive in the midst of both the good and messy stuff is what my yoga practice has taught me.  My favorite quote from Swami Satchidananda captures the essence of this post:  “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”  And I say “roll with it, flow with it, be in it.”

Note:  Though this post didn’t mention a single yoga sutra (something I’ve been focused on the last year or so), Swami Satchidananda offers a great translation of The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.

The Business of Yoga (part 3)

Part of the fun of being a small business owner is every single day is different.  And as much as I am in control of my own schedule, sometimes I’m just not.  Running a business forces you to learn how to literally “go with the flow.”  For instance, this morning I had a private yoga client cancel which opened up time for me to blog.  After this, I’ll head into Washington, DC (in the pouring rain) and teach a corporate yoga class.  I love what I do.  I also love that on Fridays my day is done by 1:15pm.  There is no denying the amount of freedom and flexibility my business offers me.

As a full-time yoga teacher with a mobile yoga business (abellaYoga – travels to teach yoga in homes & offices)  I primarily teach yoga Mon-Fri.  It’s the behind the scenes stuff that many new business owners (particularly yoga teachers) may not know needs to happen to keep a steady schedule of clients.  I do things like drafting contracts, writing proposals and creating promotional handouts for office yoga programs.  I attend networking events, run to the bank to make deposits and often function as my own IT guru (who really should be fired; technology is an area I struggle with).  Currently, I’m in the midst of working with a web designer to revamp my website as well as prepping for the City of Alexandria’s Employee Health Fair that I’ll be exhibiting at a few weeks.

As much as I love the variety each day offers, sometimes it can be challenging to keep myself on track.  To keep some structure in my fluid schedule here are a few things over the years I have found helpful.

Do Your Yoga – Schedule your own yoga practice.  Write it down in your calendar or on your daily “to do” list.  I’m serious.  If it doesn’t get booked, it won’t happen.  You’ll feel better and your students will have a better experience.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s through your own personal practice you’ll find your creative expression as a yoga teacher.  No practice = no expression.  It’s that simple.

Clear clutter – Clutter in our homes and offices mentally weighs us down.  As soon as the mail comes each day, I go through it right away and recycle most of it or file the bills in the “to be paid” folder.  The few catalogs I get, I try to flip through that evening and recycle immediately when finished.  Visit dmachoice.org to stop getting junk mail and catalogs you don’t want or need.  Online banking & billing is another great way to lighten your mailbox and keep your counters/desk clean.

Use a calendar – You need to find a system that works for you.  Believe it or not, I use a paper calendar.  I’m certain I could be more efficient by moving my scheduling system online but there is something I like about just quickly being able to open my paper calender when a client needs to make a quick change.  Often iPhones/iPads/computers take a little time to pull up the calendar.  I also keep a list of monthly “to do’s” that happen every month each year.  For instance, I know my corporate business tax is due every September and my Yoga Alliance renewal is every May.  This way I’m never surprised about money that is due or risk missing an important deadline.

Get Outside – All my yoga classes are taught inside.  Most of the “behind the scenes” things I do are done inside.  I find it key to get outside at least 20 minutes a day.  Whether its to walk the dogs or sit outback to read an article, I make sure I get some fresh air so I can return to the indoors with a clearer perspective.  Remember, nature is powerful medicine.

Again, these are just a few things I’ve discovered over the last 6+ years of running my own business.  If you have other ideas, please share!

How I Love Teaching Office Yoga

Last week I was grateful to teach a series of office yoga sessions for a huge global real estate company with several DC locations as part of their employee health & wellness program.  After spending three days in a row in Bethesda (Tues), Washington, DC (Wed) and Tysons Corner (Thurs) teaching the benefits of yogic breathing and movement (yoga asana) in conference rooms, I realized a few things:

  • Yoga is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime.  In these office yoga sessions I actually taught “chair yoga” – breathing, mindfulness and movement techniques people can do at a desk without a yoga mat, in work attire.  There were a few people with physical limitations and they were able to do most of the breathing & movement.  Again, yoga is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • I am doing exactly what I’m suppose to be doing – teaching yoga.  As a former corporate soldier, I can relate to my audience.  When I go into an office and teach yoga to people who are chained to their desks all day, I naturally seem to be able to speak about yoga in a way that they understand.  I can empathize as I lived and breathed corporate lifestyle for 10+ years.
  • P90X is turning people (men) on to yoga.  In both the Bethesda and DC offices, I had more men attending than usual.  On top of that, the men were asking multiple questions about yoga — breathing questions, pose specifics, how often they should practice, etc.  This was a shift.  Usually when I teach yoga in corporate settings it’s mostly women showing up and they have little experience with yoga.  When I would ask these “guys” about their yoga experience, they each had done the P90X yoga.  I’ve never seen P90X to give it a proper evaluation, though what I’m comfortable saying is that if it’s getting people (particularly men) to try yoga then awesome!
  • A lot of people have long commutes.  When a woman in the Bethesda office told me she commuted from/to Ashburn, VA each day I quickly realized a) I am grateful to no longer commute 60+ minutes each way/day, and b) commuting is the perfect time to practice yoga.  I’m not suggesting anyone bust out a downward facing dog on the bus/metro/highway.  Regardless of your commute time & mode of transportation, breathing is a yoga technique one can practice anywhere, anytime.  Breathing is an essential part of yoga and it requires no special equipment except for YOU to PAY ATTENTION to it.  The more you can practice actively slowing down the breath, the more you’ll be able to slow down your mind and relax your body.
  • People are enthusiastic about “their” yoga.  In each office I visited, at least a couple of participants wanted to chat me up about their yoga teacher or the style of yoga they practice.  I loved it!  Whether it was P90X, Bikram, Gentle or Vinyasa Yoga, I could see the glow in their eyes and feel the love for their practice.

I share all this as I realize I’m lucky to be what I’m doing.  I love that I continue to learn as I do what I love.  It’s also great to know I’m helping people open their eyes to doing yoga beyond a yoga studio.  So many think they need a yoga mat, 90 minute class or a special yoga outfit to benefit from yoga.  Not true!  Just a few minutes movement and active breathing every hour can do wonders.  Recent research from the Mayo Clinic shows that lack of movement (due to working at a desk all day, long commutes, watching TV for hours on end, etc.) can be worse than smoking and can defeat the efforts of a weekly exercise routine.  This is proof enough that office bound people need to find ways to feel and be healthy…and this is just another reason why I love teaching office yoga.     

Silence is Golden (sutra 1.49)

Every winter for a solid week my husband and I travel West (this year Snowmass/Aspen, CO) for our annual ski trip.  The thing is I don’t ski anymore.  I get many looks and shocking responses when I tell people this.  People further probe “don’t you get bored?” or “what do you do all week?”

Honestly it’s the perfect vacation.  Trading the hustle & bustle of the Washington, DC area for the beauty of the snow-covered mountains and fresh crisp air is a welcomed change.  I unplug about 90% of the time (no cell, no laptop) and enjoy the quiet of the day as my husband is off skiing.  I step onto my yoga mat daily and practice without the interruption of someone knocking at the door, my dogs getting in the way or feeling rushed through practice because I need to be somewhere (i.e. teach a yoga class).  In addition to yoga, I read more than I can at home (sitting next to a cozy fire), hit the gym and go for a couple of hikes in the snow by myself in silence.  For a full week it’s as if I’m hiding out.  I have nowhere to be.  I have no one to talk to until my husband returns.  I have no one expecting anything of me.

What I’ve discovered is when I can be verbally quiet and move at my own pace for a few hours almost daily, its way easier to turn inward and access a level of peace from deep within.  This experience is unlike anything I seem to be able to find when I’m back at home and driven by a schedule of “to do’s” and yoga classes to teach.  It’s as if the silence in itself becomes the true vacation.

So it was within the silence of my vacation I was reminded that actually a component of yoga, as described in the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is mouna.  Mouna is Sanskrit for silence.  As explained in Swami Satchidananda’s commentary of sutra 1.49: 

“Mouna vakya Prakratitha Parabrahma tattvam.”  “The Parabrahma tattvam, or unmanifested supreme principle, can only be explained by silence, not by words.”  In not only the physical silence, but in the real mental silence, the wisdom dawns.

Again I fully admit in my day-to-day life as a mobile yoga teacher in the DC area, mouna is challenging.  Or maybe it requires discipline I have yet to cultivate.  Yet when I’m away, completely unplugged and hiding in the mountains, I am able to easily drop into the silence.  The best part is I enjoy it.   And the real beauty is when the silence fills you up from the inside, whispers of the divine can be heard from deep within.  It’s an experience that can’t be fully described.  I will say when I am blessed with extended silence the result is greater clarity in my thoughts and my writing is on fire.  To this, I have last week’s silence to thank for this blog post.

Satya Will Set You Free (sutra 2.36)

After teaching a corporate yoga class the other morning, I decided to head to the Clarendon Starbucks (sorry, Arlington, VA for those reading unfamiliar with the DC area) to grab a warm drink and read.  I had about 20 minutes to kill before heading to my private client’s house around the corner so I decided to sit.

After sitting at the community table (i.e. a long table with multiple strangers, each doing their own thing), I stood up to put my coat on, my book in my bag and exit.  The guy across from me said “that was fast”.  The guy’s friend just smiled politely.  Then the “guy” said “so you’re a yoga instructor?”  (side note:  Clearly this “guy”  just eavesdropped on a conversation I had moments before with someone who I use to work with eons ago at MCI.  The ex-MCI colleague happen to recognize me as he was making his departure.  He stopped and we caught up on jobs, life, stuff.)

The conversation with the guy/stranger went like this:

-guy:  I have a “good” friend who’s a yoga instructor.  He’s been teaching yoga “for like 12 years”.

-me:  “Oh really, what’s his name?”

-guy: (Long silence with his eyes squinting, and his friend & me staring at him)

-guy’s friend:  “I thought you said he was your friend???”

-me:  “…a good friend?”

-guy:  “His name is XXX”  (me here:  I don’t remember the name).  Then the “guy” continues to say “I wasn’t expecting you to ask for his name so quickly”.

-me:  “Well, I don’t know him (with a smile).  Have a nice weekend.”

As I walked away, I was thinking what kind of “good” friend was this…someone he met on the metro once and never saw again.  Or maybe he’s just a facebook friend.  And as we all know, facebook has somewhat become a violation of satya…I mean take inventory of how many of your “facebook friends” are truly friends vs. acquaintances.  I am at full violation here.  Do you think I really have 600+ friends?

Anyway, on the walk to my car after this brief Starbucks encounter I felt lied to.  Here I didn’t even know the “guy” nor his Starbucks friend (or the yoga instructor).  I’m assuming he was trying to impress me but why?  Suddenly I felt sorry for the “guy”.  If he’s telling a little white lie to a stranger, then what types of lies does he tell his “real” friends or even just facebook friends?

Why?  Why tell a lie even if it’s small and meaningless?  Coincidentally, I had a copy of The Yoga Sutras in hand (that was the book I had been sitting in Starbucks reading & placing in my bag as the “guy” tried to name his yoga instructor friend).  In hindsight, I should have opened it up and read sutra 2.36 that specifically speaks about satya (satya is Sanskrit for truth)…“To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.” 

More on satya (truth) as explained further by Swami Satchidananda in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali“The more we lead a life of honesty, the more we will see the results, and that will encourage us to be more honest.  With establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes.  One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life.  When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book.  But this comes only with an absolutely honest mind.  When the mind becomes clear and serene, the true Self reflects without disfigurement, and we realize the Truth in its own original nature.”

Start with your words.  Think the truth.  Speak the truth and then your actions will be true.  From there (with practice & patience), you’ll stand in your truth.  Trust me, satya/sutra 2.36 is a big sutra to fill and I often catch myself telling the little white lie.  So I must say:  thank you Starbucks “guy” for reminding me to speak the truth, act the truth and live the truth.     

The Business of Yoga (part 1)

I’m sure you’ve heard it multiple times…when you’re passionate about what you do professionally, it doesn’t feel like work.  I’m lucky to say I’ve been experiencing this for the last six plus years teaching yoga full-time in the vicinity of Washington, DC.  When I left my last marketing gig, I realized I no longer thrived in the corporate atmosphere like I once had just a couple years prior.  Already an Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), I wondered how I could possibly make a living doing something I loved.  After some research and brainstorming, abellaYoga was born.

So yes I make a living teaching yoga.  I’m often asked “how?” both by other experienced yoga teachers and those just fresh out of a yoga teacher training program.  I’ve received calls and emails from several around the country asking for advice on how to start teaching yoga full-time.  More than once, the business side of me has thought “I could make additional money coaching new yoga teachers on “the business of yoga” (aka being a yoga teacher mentor).

It happened again last week.  As I hung up the phone on Thursday with a girl from California who wants to create a mobile yoga business like abellaYoga —offering in-home privates and office yoga classes— it dawned on me that maybe it is just in my karma to share what I know.  Sure I could charge for these 30-45 minute calls but why?  Why not simply help those who want to spread the power and joy of yoga?  I’ve had the honor to teach yoga full-time the last few years and continue to be blessed so why shouldn’t others experience this.  It’s selfish and non-yogic to not share what you know (think Aparigraha, sutra 2.30).

So here goes.  Let me first say the yoga times have changed since I started teaching.  There are way more certified yoga teachers than 5 years ago.  Secondly, when I started abellaYoga in 2006 there really wasn’t much information available on how to start a yoga business, or make a living teaching yoga.  My 200-hour yoga teacher training program didn’t cover this topic.  Unlike today, you can Google the business of yoga (or teaching yoga full-time) and you’re bound to find free articles on the topic or yoga teachers who are willing to mentor you on the subject for a fee.

Fortunately for me, my years in the business & marketing world came in handy.  The first thing I did was create a business plan and to this day I still use it as a guide to keep me on track with my vision, annual goals, marketing, pricing and the many “to do’s” that go on beyond just teaching yoga in homes and offices.  If you’re not sure where to start, again go to Mr. Google (as my Grandmother called it), type in the phrase business plan and you’re bound to find a slew of free templates.  No one has to see your plan especially if you’re not seeking a loan (i.e. to open a yoga studio).

As you go through the business plan process, keep a copy of The Yoga Sutras close at hand.  There are a slew of instructions in there that can be helpful in guiding your entrepreneurial spirit.  “Effort toward steadiness is practice” (sutra 1.13) is the first one that comes to mind.  A business takes dedication, through both the highs and lows.  To be successful, there will be plenty of times you’ll need to do things that pull you out of your comfort zone (think Tapas, sutra 2.1).  And through it all, it’s key to stay positive (think pratipaksha bhavana, sutra 2.33), grounded and focused (sutra 2.52 & 2.53).

In my next post, I’ll share a few other biz tips that come straight from my heart.