Yoga Training, Halfway Point: Set Your Intention

Let me begin with this: To say that the training program is tiring is an understatement. The days are 12 hours long. There are two-three times per day that we are in a heated room, performing postures. Your classmates are virtual strangers, and you’re together in the building for hours on end. You sweat. You feel grimy. You bend and stretch to your limits. Then you do it again.

I can recall the first yoga class I did. I was in college and my best friend and I jumped into a random class at the fitness center. We giggled our way through, attempting to balance and failing. Sweat ran down our face and we vowed to be serious about our work outs (that clearly didn’t happen, we rested on genetics for years). We knew nothing of asanas, chakras or becoming a better person. Yoga was a foreign concept as a lifestyle for two young black women from Oklahoma City (Chane) and Houston (me).

Fast forward 10 years.

The day starts at 6:40, earlier than I get up for work. I sleepily make my way, grabbing my duffel bag with two changes of workout clothes, a day’s worth of meals and snacks and a five-inch binder of training materials. By the time the day is over at 7:30, I’ve led a practice, practiced postures while others have led, done an hour class and read pages worth of training information. By 10 p.m., I’m sprawled on the couch, on the other side of sleep. In a word: exhausted.

Lest you think I’m miserable, I will balance the above with other insights. My practice and thinking has sharpened in ways I never thought possible. Sharing this experience with the other trainees and Academy leadership has been amazing. Training is about more than just yoga. We study principles of anatomy and physiology, communication and pedagogy. We will be well-rounded teachers when we finish. And I feel infinitely blessed that I have this experience.

One of the most important practices I’ve established from teacher training is setting an intention. Not only does it make you accountable to yourself and others to accomplish a goal, you begin to recognize how the importance you place on reaching that goal will modify your behavior and attitude. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when your intention for the day is compassion for those who annoy you (speaking from experience, this was my goal last week).

Do you do something similar in your day? Perhaps it’s a mini-meditation or scripture reading before beginning your day. How does this influence your choices throughout the day?



Why My Mental Health Days Always Include Yoga

The straw had been laid to the camel’s back, and that back was broken. The emails kept rolling in, alerts had my cell phone vibrating back-to-back and the to-do list was growing. Finally, I threw up my hands. The stressed feeling was familiar and there was no way to alleviate it while remaining in the situation causing it. Finally, I told myself: “I’m taking a mental health day.”

Since I was a teenager, mental health days have been essential to establishing a balance between the go-go mentality and just taking a day off to do nothing. All my sister and I had to do was simply ask and, if the wind was blowing the right way (and we’d been keeping up with other duties), my mom would nod and the PJs would stay on. Mental health days mostly consisted of watching junk daytime TV and eating three sandwiches in one sitting. Now, my mental health days are dedicated to yoga.

When I was at my most down, I was on the mat about five days a week. I’d come into the studio with my shoulders up to my ears, breathing shallowly. Each class left me exhilarated and exhausted, sweating through every pore in my body – I’d seen drops materialize on my shin in front of my eyes – and working muscles that hadn’t been used in hours. Yoga became a place where I could disconnect from all requests, notifications and expectations except my own. The same feeling from earlier iterations of mental health days mainfested itself as a reaction to my practice.

September is National Yoga Month, which means so much more to me as I go through teacher training. I write this post because yoga matters so much to me and as part of the #YogaMatters blogging contest put on by the Master of Public Health program at George Washington University. I couldn’t imagine going through life as a super-stressed, unhappy person, and yoga helped me find my center. This is not to say that I don’t still get stressed; I’m human. Yoga helps me find coping mechanisms so the stress doesn’t take over my life. Deep breathing, inversions, meditation, silence, creating intentions for my behavior – all of these form my practice. Practice is the right word because yoga is never perfected. Yoga is an ongoing journey that depends on my mental and physical well-being, and that changes from day to day.

Check out the #YogaMatters contest, and write about how yoga has affected your health.



Sponsored by MPH@GW Public Health

Random Selection of Thoughts: Welcome to September!

So I haven’t forgotten about blogging about my yoga training. Suffice it to say: it’s intense. I’m in a group of 21 students, from all walks of life, different ages and professions and reasons for being there. The days are long and there is a lot to learn. But I’ll get into that in a different post.

Today’s post is about the random thoughts I have floating around that I want to share with the lovely people who happened to click on this link.

  • How is it September already? Though this year is flying by, I’m pleased about September for the following reasons: FOOTBALL and cooler temperatures (though not in Texas yet, sadly).
  • This has been the summer of reading. My recommendation for anyone looking to add to their Amazon Wish list: anything by Roxane Gay. Seriously, her book “An Untamed State” has been in my thoughts for over a week. I ignored social obligations, lunch time limits and loved ones to get through the book. And now I have to re-read it for the details I missed in my effort to reach the epic climax of the novel. Honorable “must-read” mentions:
    • “Where the Line Bleeds” and “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward. As a Southerner, especially being from Houston, the way that Ward describes her characters, families from the hardscrabble Gulf coast dealing with the choices of life (both legal and illegal) rang quite true. You’ll get caught up in the story line and start to identify with each character.
    • “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief” by Lawrence Wright. One of those books where you find yourself yelping “That didn’t really happen.” and “Are these people serious?” after nearly every page. I sometimes forget that in a pre-Internet day, folks got away with making claims that today could easily be disputed. And boy did the founder of Scientology tell some whoppers!
    • “How to Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston. I’ve been picking up and putting down this book for a while. Unsure why I haven’t finished it, because it’s consistently hilarious and I find myself nodding along with the stories of Black childhood in America.
    • “Redefining Realness: my path to womanhood, identity, love & so much more” by Janet Mock. Though I’ve always been pretty liberal, this book opened my eyes. Mock’s journey tells the challenges she faced as a mixed-race youth in Hawaii, navigating the space between presenting male, which was expected by society, and presenting female, which was in her spirit. I have a six-degrees-of-separation connection through a friend of a friend, and the visibility of these stories matter.
  • Yoga is such a blessing. September is National Yoga Month, so grab a 10-day or one week pass if you can. My mom shared this great infographic about how yoga affects your body. I could easily add about 10 more.
  • If you’re like me, and you struggle with content scheduling, here is an excellent list of 30 content creation tips. I already hit you with #17 (book reviews) above and this whole post is #13 (list posts). See, it works!

Alright, off to prepare for this excellent four-day work week. Oh, and plot for my world take over. As always, I love your comments so please leave one.