Author Archives: Sakleinsmithryt200

Why Restorative Yoga is So Important

True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.“It’s like being homesick, but you’re already home.” I hear comedian Sarah Silverman explain to Terry Gross on NPR about her experience with depression. Her words resonate with me and I find myself feeling consumed with fear. As a pregnant woman, hormonal changes can bring on bouts of mood swings, weepiness, tears, and even depression. Thankfully, prenatal and postpartum depression have begun to receive deserved attention in the news media in recent years. More and more celebrities have come out about their own experiences with it, and more parents feel that it’s worthy of national attention, research, and conversation. I find myself feeling fear because I know what depression feels like. I know what anxiety feels like. If there’s any consistent trigger for these things in my life, it’s been major life changes, and having a baby is one of the biggest changes one can experience in life. Today, while feeling lethargic and sad I begin to feel fear. “Buck Up” a voice inside me commands. “Get moving.” All I want to do is rest. It could be the exhaustion from creating another human life, I tell myself. But then I cry, for no reason. And I look for relief in my normal pleasures- tv shows I love, working out, reading baby or anatomy books, or being on Facebook. But today it doesn’t work. I’m still feeling detached, and I begin to feel fear. Because I know what Sarah Silverman is talking about.

As I enter my third trimester, people have asked me if I fear labor. The truth is, I do, but not nearly as much as the first 12 weeks of my son’s life. I have many parent friends who are eager to share their horror stories of going nearly mad with sleep deprivation, baby blues, and the general panic about not knowing how to soothe a wailing baby. The truth is, I’m afraid to go mad. As extreme as that sounds, this is actually my deepest fear. As a person with a family history of mental illness, and having seen first hand how traumatic having an ill parent can be for a child, these are the anxious thoughts that creep into my otherwise blissful third trimester.

Although I appreciate Ms. Silverman’s description of what depression feels like, for me, it’s been more of an embodied awareness of sensory overload. As a yoga teacher, I know my body and mind well enough to know when I’m starting to come down with more than just a little sadness. I feel the overwhelming need to shut down all things that stimulate me. All of a sudden, the tv must be turned off, the books need to be put away, and the phone placed on do not disturb. For me, changes in mood that have become close to depression begin with the staleness of all things I normally find rich and exciting. Armed with this awareness, I know to begin to turn off, shut down, and restore until things feel rich once again.

I’ve never dealt with the darkness of depression some others have. I’ve never needed to be medicated, and talk therapy has always worked wonders for me, in combination with yoga, breathing, and great friends and family. But I do credit yoga for having given me the awareness to sense when my feelings become more than feelings, and when my mood becomes more than just a passing nuisance. Depression and other mood disorders are physical. Having a yoga practice can make us more attuned to what’s happening in the body and mind. For this, I am truly grateful. I begin to become my own teacher, asking myself the questions I ask my students. “What am I sensing in my body?” “How do I feel?” “Am I able to take a deep breath, and where do I feel the breath?”

If you’ve never taken a restorative yoga class, it can be divine. It’s a meditation of the body in a place of rest. I love teaching restorative yoga. I often feel self conscious, however. I wonder if the students are bored. We hold postures for long periods of time, resting and breathing. I lead students through a series of questions to help them become more aware of what’s happening in their body and mind. I allow them to rest in silence. I allow the silence and the pause to become long and uncomfortable for me. Then, I hold it for several more breaths. You see, I recognize that this silence, this uncomfortable, long, holding, is one of the most valuable things for all of us. As I mentioned, we are quite susceptible to sensory overload. The noises, the news, the sounds, the information we receive from second to second seep into our bodies. We become not unlike a full inbox that needs to be processed, and rather than allow ourselves the time to process, we continue to take in. This is the ideal foundation for anxiety and depression, in my opinion. If we don’t know how to shut down, we don’t know how to process. If we can’t process, we can’t be well. I offer my students a space to process. Despite my own insecurity that I’m not making it interesting or stimulating enough, that I’m asking weirdly worded, open-ended questions about sensations and feelings, I know I’m teaching something valuable. Moreover, some people literally just need to be reminded to breathe, and they need a space to do it.

My anxiety about becoming a parent is normal, and I shouldn’t admonish myself for feeling this way. My yoga practice tells me to have patience with myself and these feelings. I drive to teach my next class. My mother calls. I ignore her call. She wants to plan. The nursery and the shower need to be discussed. But for right now, I can’t. I need to process my inbox first. At first I feel bad, how will I feel when my son ignores my phone calls? But then a flash of happiness runs through me. If my son is aware enough of his own feelings, body, mind, and breath, if he has his mental and emotional boundaries intact, and preserves himself and his health accordingly, I will be incredibly proud. And that’s what yoga is all about.

The Power and Wisdom of “Somehow”

contextquestionmarkstreetart-caaf2ca2aa60036aa6c4ee44b5ee94ab_hOne of the biggest challenges of my life so far was moving from New York City to Austin 2 years ago. I remember looking at my apartment crammed full of stuff and realizing I was leaving friends and community and a life I’d built for almost 8 years and that I’d made a conscious decision to pick up and change everything. The stress I felt around this move and life change was huge. I had stomach problems for months. I remember asking myself over and over if we were making the right decision, and how it would all get done. I had an acupuncturist who suggested I listen to the quiet voice within. I noticed every time I felt pangs of panic, a silent voice (a la Field of Dreams) would quietly suggest the word “Somehow”. Somehow became my mantra, and 2 years ago, Somehow, we did it.

In life, when you’re about to embark on a major life change and seek the advice of elders or those who’ve been through it before, they will sing the same tune no matter the occasion or endeavor. “You’ll figure it out” are the most key, wise, and FRUSTRATING words you can hear when feeling fear and seeking concrete advice. From the cliff, this seems untrue. Maybe true for them, yes. They figured it out. But surely you can’t. Surely you won’t find the money or the time, or lack the courage or the talent or the know how to do what they’ve done. And so fear becomes the loud voice. Shouting a resounding “No. I can’t.” and making you believe that you aren’t capable of accomplishing the dream, the task, the destiny. That voice isn’t incorrect. The truth is, you can’t do it. You won’t be able to do it. You’re a flawed human being, after all, and this is a feat you’ve never attempted. You don’t have practice, and you might fail. But then, like a guardian angel, the thing you cannot see is the glory of your Somehow.

You see, Somehow doesn’t know fear. Because Somehow doesn’t know or worry for the future. Somehow is both the surrender to not knowing and the confidence of knowing, simultaneously. Somehow is the only thing that will get you where you’re going, especially when you know you can’t, or you’re too afraid to try. Somehow will do it for you.

Whether it’s a decision to go back to school, get a better job, have or try for a baby, move to another town, take the vacation of a lifetime, fall in love, get married, Somehow is the only thing you’ll need. “Don’t worry about the money.” people will say. Go ahead, doubt them. “You’ll be fine.” Your loved ones will attempt to assure you. “You guys will figure it out” your friends promise. And the Facebook memes with backdrops of sunsets will taunt you with overly optimistic, trite phrases like “Leap, and the net will appear.” You should go ahead and just call bullshit. Because it’s totally fine if you don’t buy it. You can doubt it with every fiber of your being. But if you find your Somehow, and you let Somehow drive. Somehow, you’ll get there. And you’ll look back and wonder how the hell you did it. And the only answer will be “Somehow.”

You’ll learn to ask for help. You’ll learn to put one foot in front of the other. You’ll learn to accept the money, or the favor, or the criticism. You’ll learn to lean on others, and you’ll learn to cry and smile at the same time. You’ll notice the net does appear, and then sometimes it doesn’t. But then, maybe you learn to fly. Perhaps you learn instead the value of falling, and discover your ability to climb. Somehow is the greatest teacher.  For all the Somehow inside me, I’m eternally grateful, as well as the Somehow that others have gifted me over the years. For all the love, money, advice, and support that a community can give, the wisdom of not knowing has guided me the most. In these times of needing and receiving support from others, I find myself humbled by my fortune, and I wonder how I will ever pay it back- actually, karmically, in all the ways.

The voice simply answers, “Somehow.”

 

Dear Unborn Child, You’re on Your Own.

 

12009779_966451576665_1619564502673726742_nDearest little nugget,

We only found out about you a few weeks ago. We are told it’s too soon for us to tell people. Mainly because, statistically speaking, so much can go wrong in these first few weeks of pregnancy. Most advise we keep it a secret as long as possible, so as to not cause ourselves the pain of having to tell friends and loved ones about a potential loss. It’s been a very hard rule to follow, as we are very excited, but also, a very easy one, because we are very scared. The truth is, Baby, that this is a frightening time. Most women my age are currently trying for and conceiving babies. I know many women that have endured terrible loss. Few women I know have gotten through a pregnancy without complications. Problems have ranged from miscarriages, to stillbirths and sometimes worse. This is a war women face silently, and it feels at times like you can reduce a successful pregnancy and delivery sometimes only to “luck”. Before we started trying for you, I convinced myself that wasn’t lucky and that I would never be able to handle such a loss. I thought that I wasn’t strong enough, not only for getting through your birth, but also for a lifetime of being paralyzed with fear over what could happen to you in your precious life.

They say when you have a child it’s like having your heart walk around outside of you. This was a terrifying prospect to me. You see, Baby, I’ve always been a worrywart; more, in fact- a diagnosed Catastrophist. A freak, concerned about all the terrible things that could go wrong in life, worrying at every turn that something bad could and would happen. This has caused me to be terrified of many of life’s milestones, including marrying your father. I thought things could never be easy or ok, let alone happy. Luckily for me, 12 years with your Daddy has taught me that happiness is not only possible, it is the most real thing we actually have in this life. That’s why I’m so excited about you. You see, I realized something about you that is very powerful. You are on your own, and that’s an amazing thing.

I realized it the moment we found out you were coming. Because you see, you’re the first thing in my life I haven’t had to work incredibly hard to make happen. And I’m not talking about how you were made, I’m talking about the fact that you and the Universe are making you as we speak, with no conscious help from me. All I’m doing is nurturing myself to nurture you, and it seems every day I check my GLOW app, you’ve sprouted some new necessary body part, and I find myself being so impressed with you. How are you doing that? You’ve made me realize that I did it too, long ago. I so wanted to be here that I came to be. And so you too, shall come to be, without me having to try. It’s the most amazing process I’ve ever taken part in.

When I realized how powerful you are, how powerful this process is, while being so incredibly fragile, I realized it is a metaphor for life itself. Security is an illusion, Baby. That doesn’t mean I won’t work my hardest to make you believe in it under my care, but it’s true. I feel about you, that you are the most powerful force I have ever encountered, and yet, you could be gone at any second. And I realized, that’s not just the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or until you’re born, or until you’re 18, you will ALWAYS be the most powerful, fragile thing in my life. Accepting this about you has shown me that I’m truly ready for you. Not only do I accept it, I celebrate it. Not only do I celebrate it, I am wholly liberated by it. Thank you for that.

So the thing I want to say is that I trust you. I know you and God have a plan for your life and mine, and how we will know each other and for how long. I made the decision to let go of fear, because it was preventing me from feeling joy, and you, Baby, are nothing if not pure joy. And I so want to feel you. So, here’s my promise: I will always do everything in my power to care for, nurture, and protect you. And I will worry for you. Always. But I will not fear, and I will not be a slave to fear like I was before you came along. Because your life is your life, as you have proven with your incredible heart beat. You are your own person, with your own strength, and you will be here when and for how long and in what manner you choose. You are obviously very strong. You fought to be here, and you must continue to fight every moment to live. I know that because you are my child, you are going to be able to do this. And I know, because you are my child, that when you are done fighting, it will be on your terms, and I will honor that. Should I ever feel the need to grieve for you, Baby, it will only be because I cherish the way you’ve changed me, and whatever time we have together, I will celebrate. ALWAYS.

I’ve heard people say that having a child was their greatest accomplishment. I don’t know if I’ll feel that way about you. You are no accomplishment of mine. You are your own accomplishment. What I will say, Baby, is that you are the bravest thing I have ever done. Making you and growing you has been like walking off a cliff into a pile of cotton candy. You are the bravest thing I have ever done, the greatest risk, and the greatest reward, and we haven’t even met. So, thank you. You are teaching me so much about my own power and ability, and I admire you for yours. You are on your own, now and always. Please know that this is more than enough. You are more than enough, and if you ever forget, I will always be here to remind you.

Yours in loving gratitude and astonishment,
Mommy

The Real Value of Yoga Teacher Training

31940_10150204719185274_3359934_nWhen I was 26, I joined a sorority. It was a collection of some of the brightest, most empathetic and passionate women I’d ever met. We met through a learning institution, one that we all came to with hopes to build a career, or deepen our knowledge, or with the idea that it might even change our lives. I can’t speak for the rest of my yoga teacher training class, but for me, those hopes were realized. Today, yoga is even more popular than it was when I did my training. With this increasing popularity comes the need for more teachers, and with the need for money (on behalf of the studios) comes more teacher training programs. I often read articles on how the yoga market is over saturated with newly certified teachers that say in order to prevent this, we should stop training teachers. But then, I turn around and see another new yogalebrity, who’s branded another style by name, and who’s now asking thousands of dollars tuition for the next young aspiring guru to become certified in “Buti” yoga.

It seems that all those who currently teach have an opinion on this, for several very understandable reasons. For one thing, it drives up the competition for jobs. With every new teacher seeking jobs, a veteran teacher will begin to wonder why they are competing for the same job as a rookie yoga teacher. On the other hand, you have many veteran yoga teachers who see teacher training programs as an opportunity to make money for themselves. Then you have the evolving issue of how well these teachers are actually being trained and whether or not 200 hours is enough study to delve into a hands-on physical health practice for individuals of need. I’ve seen articles about people who’ve emerged from their teacher training disillusioned about the happiness they didn’t find, the money they didn’t make, or that being a yoga teacher simply wasn’t what they expected. With these dashed expectations, spending several thousand of your hard earned dollars to “find your bliss” seems like a misstep, one that’s now being argued about. So the question must be asked, in the year 2015, what is the real value of yoga teacher training?

I myself, am the ultimate yoga teacher cliché. When I was 22, I moved to New York City straight out of college with hopes to be a musical theatre actress. By 25, I had lost a great deal of my enthusiasm, waiting tables late nights to try to scrape by and afford my tiny Queens apartment. One of the restaurants I worked at was in Hell’s Kitchen. One day, walking to the train after work, tired and reeking of salsa, I saw that a studio nearby offered a free week of classes. Needless to say, after several classes, I fell deep into the yoga well. Yoga changed my life for reasons I couldn’t explain. It was as if my life had gone from gray to color. My mood improved, my outlook improved, my body improved, my relationships improved, everything across the board seemed to have magically shifted me from sad waitress to shiny yogi. I didn’t know how it worked and why I felt so good and I wanted to know. So I saved my hard-earned waitressing dollars and signed up for teacher training. I hadn’t been a serious devotee. I didn’t know sanskrit well, or how to invert in headstand. I just knew I loved it. I wanted to learn the tricks from the magicians themselves. Somewhere, deep inside, I knew this held the key to my destiny. That somehow, following my heart would lead me to an understanding of my purpose, where before I was lost. I was desperate for answers. I was desperate for a path.

On the first day of my yoga teacher training the teachers explained to us that we were undergoing a process that might bring on radical changes in our lives. They said many people in the program lost relationships with friends, lovers, and family members because of their newfound philosophy and way of life. Though curious, I was undeterred. Those next three months, my life was a vibrantly rapid trip through sanskrit texts, yoga scripture, challenging asana practice, anatomy lessons, meditating (which I had never done before) and practice teaching. I was waiting tables at night until 2:00am, then coming back into midtown from Queens at 8:00am to attend my trainings. It was hard and I was tired. I loved it. I was fully on board with the idea of becoming a yoga teacher full time. I couldn’t wait tables anymore. My mission was clear: finish my certification and get the hell out of food service. I put in my two weeks notice at the restaurant I worked in. One by one, my managers told me I’d be back. They said there was no way that I’d make the money I was making waiting tables as a yoga teacher. They thought I was making a foolish mistake. I didn’t care. It might have been the clarity I’d gained from my meditation, my naiveté, or just plain luck, but I leapt. The week I quit my job, I was offered a new one, teaching yoga full time in a corporate setting. That was five years ago. I have been a full time yoga teacher ever since.

On our last day of training, we held a ceremony to commemorate our graduation and we bawled like babies. I felt as if I was attending the funeral for my old self- a girl, who thought that life would always be impossible, who had no idea what she was doing with her life, and knew deep down there had to be something else. My yoga teacher training was my first step in becoming a woman. From there I started my own business, married my husband, and made the decision to move out of New York. I can’t say that yoga teacher training was what made all those things happen. What I can say is that for me, after my teacher training, everything began to make sense. I had a new group of friends that I held dear. I became a life time member of the greatest international club.

Because of luck, or hard work, or passion, I’ve been able to not only sustain a career in this field, but make a transition to another city doing it. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not rich. I don’t want to be like other yoga teachers that say it’s fine that I don’t make money because I’m fulfilled. That’s crap. Doing the work you love and making money are not mutually exclusive. I’m a business woman, and I’m a skilled practitioner. I seek to make more money, to be the kind of person who can one day afford to own a home and create a “vacation” or a “hit by a bus” fund. I’m not there yet. YET. I believe that we as yoga teachers have the responsibility to create these changes for ourselves and our industry. The problem of lack of money in the yoga industry will not be solved by teacher training programs. The 200 hours will remain inadequate, and a promise of a career is only a projection of potential, not a guarantee. But, for every person who has fallen in love with the way they feel because of yoga, there should be a yoga teacher training program. Yes, the branding of new certification styles is ridiculous. Yes, the studios do them to make money. Yes, the market is over saturated. But I remain driven by the words our teacher, Lauren Hanna said to us, “There are people who will be your students. They are waiting for you.”

The real truth about teacher training is that it is invaluable. There are problems with the current model, but I just can’t see a downside to people walking around like they are awake for the first time, alive and with renewed sense of purpose. I have a hard time seeing the downside of creating teachers. The world needs teachers. And yoga teacher training can apply to ALL careers and all paths. If you are considering spending your money doing teacher training, think carefully. There is only one question to ask yourself. Are your students waiting for you?