Archive for the ‘yoga travel’ Category

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.     

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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.

The Buiness of Yoga (part 2)

Let me state upfront:  This is all about YOU.  My intention in sharing this “business of yoga” jazz is to simply offer you what’s worked for me.  Period.  It is not to say what I’m doing will work for you, or is even right for you.

In many ways I consider how I’m sharing these yoga biz tips to be similar to how I teach yoga to my private yoga students and corporate yoga clients…I’m just offering guidance through the process/class of yoga postures.  It’s up to you to dig deep and listen to YOU.

So here goes.  The following 5 yoga biz tips come straight from my heart.  These are simply lessons I’ve personally learned along the way as I built abellaYoga (a mobile yoga business serving Washington, DC, Alexandria and Arlington, VA)  from scratch.

1)  Be your own best ambassador.  Tell everyone you know what you’re doing, what type of people you want to teach (i.e. athletes, , moms, seniors, office employees, kids, corporate executives, etc.)  The point is whatever speaks to you “speak about it”.  Go beyond facebook.  Meet with people face-to-face.  Make notes to follow-up with people you met last month.  Thank people for listening and don’t expect anything in return.  This is all known as “networking” and it takes time and patience.  For those who have been following me on the Yoga Sutra path, reference my blog post covering sutra 1.13

2)  Decide where you will teach once you figure out who you want to teach (see tip #1).  Get creative.  There is plenty of space available to teach yoga.  A yoga studio is an obvious choice as are your local gym and community center.  Think outside of the yoga box…grassy fields, theaters, museums, office buildings.  Explore potential “free” spaces.  To this day, I have yet to pay for space to teach my classes.

3)  Do what you do best and outsource the rest.  Not a numbers person?  Hire an accountant — he’s one of my key advisors 🙂  Not very creative?  Barter for website services and a logo.  This list could go on and on.  Clearly the point is, focus on teaching and whatever else it is you love.  Pass the other “stuff” to those who like to deal with the “stuff”.   Writing this reminds me of Dharana, sutra 3.1:  Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea.  Again, stay focused on what you do best and outsource the rest.

4) Teach during your peak energy time.  This was huge for me.  As yoga teachers, we need to show up awake, alive and ready to inspire.  How can you do that if you’re teaching tomorrow bright & early, yet you just went to bed because 20 minutes ago you left teaching a 9pm class at your local yoga studio?  Listen..If you’re a morning person aim to teach yoga in the mornings through the afternoon.  If you’re a night owl, then teach classes late day/evening.  Again, listen to YOU.

5) Practice, practice, practice!   I can’t say this enough.  Don’t sacrifice your personal yoga practice for teaching yoga.  Inspire yourself via your own yoga practice.  Burn through your doubts.  Hello tapas!  (See sutra 2.1 for Tapas details) It’s through your time on the mat you’ll find your creative expression as a teacher.  No practice = no expression.  It’s that simple.   As Pattabhi Jois said “practice and all is coming.”

Done.  Some of the above may be helpful or none of it may work for you.  Take what you want, leave the rest.  Most importantly, follow your heart.  PS:  Here’s  “The Business of Yoga (part 1)” if you missed it.

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.

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.

Dearest Dharma Thoughts

During my recent time up at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC I was so blessed to hear many thoughts from Sri Dharma Mittra.  I feel it’s part of my responsibility (see my previous post:  Look Out) to share them.  So not to overwhelm you (or me) here are 5 to start.

Instructions:  Read, contemplate and put them into action.  Result = joy!

Control the mouth –what goes in & what goes out.  “If you can control the mouth, you can control the mind.”

“Don’t be attached” —to the practice, bliss, perfection or imperfection.

Dreams pass.  “Let everything be like a dream.”

“When you know what is non-self, the Self appears.”

Reflect constantly.  “Go to sleep and reflect on the universe.”

Bonus thought:  “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.”  These were not spoken by Dharma but rather found in my Yogi Tea bag on day #2 of the week.

Look Out

As many of you know I spent this Fall working on my 500-hour yoga teacher training certification in NYC with Sri Dharma Mittra at his main temple/yoga center.  I did the training to expand my yoga teaching knowledge and propel my personal practice of pranayama, meditation and asana.  Of course, I did that.  Though unexpectedly, I received so much beyond what I could have ever anticipated.  To the point, I don’t think I can fully articulate it but here goes…

I have a huge responsibility ahead of me.  The very last thing Dharma said to us on Sunday night 11/20 at the closing/certification ceremony is “you are now part of the greatest army on the planet.  and our mission is to save souls.”  At first I thought, that’s a cool way to look at it.  Within a few hours it hit me:  I need to spread the power of yoga -specifically Dharma’s yoga of love and service (aka karma yoga).

I woke up the next morning (Monday) feeling different.  Fede, my good friend and Dharma sadhaka, and I enjoyed a long walk with coffee 🙂 in her Brooklyn neighborhood.  The air was fresh, the sky open, the city calm and I was at complete peace.  My entire skin felt as if it was radiating peace.  I felt lighter on the inside and a strong sense I was beaming with Dharma’s compassionate energy.

It’s now Tuesday (just 48 hours since the “saving souls” statement) and I realize I can’t just “hoard” this experience of feeling his compassionate energy (remember:  practice aparigraha/non-hoarding at all times).  I need to live and share it.  I need to be a better version of Melody and allow compassion to shine forth in every single thing I do, say and think.  Trickier than it is to write, but it is possible.  And I know by doing so I will inspire others to find their light, live their best and be a shining example to all those they in turn encounter.

I am on a mission to help a mini-army of souls that will in turn eventually radiate the same level of passion I currently have for spreading love and service.  Honestly, I didn’t think this training would shift me much -some, but not this much!  My guess is this is just the first of many shifts to come as a result of spending so much time in the presence of Sri Dharma Mittra.  A wave of responsibility has filled me and all I can say is “look out world here I come.”  In loving service of Sri Dharma Mittra, Melody