Friday, July 3, 2020

A Positive Impact on Lives

I started presenting Facebook live yoga classes two months ago because I miss the members of my classes during this Covid-19 pandemic and wanted to connect. Though I cannot see them on screen I know they are there and talk to them like they are with me. I find that every time I teach these classes my focus is on yoga and the members and I don't think about anything else going on in the world. It is a lovely escape for me for a renewal of positive energy. I've heard from a number of participants and they are delighted as well with the yoga and the connection, many sharing with me how much these events mean to them. I had no idea.

My husband and I recently watched a movie from 9 years ago - Larry Crowne. Tom Hanks plays Larry who works at UMart and is one of their top employees. He is fired because he does not have a college degree. He ends up going to college so that he can never be fired for that reason again. Julia Roberts is one of his professors. She is looking for meaning in her work and feels like she isn't having any impact. One of her classes is a speech class that Crowne is enrolled in. It turns out in the end that many lives are actually impacted very positively by her work and she finally gets to see that in the growth and performance of her students, especially Crowne. It means the world to her and changes her whole approach and enjoyment of her work and life going forward.

I always loved the Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart - It's A Wonderful Life. In it Jimmy's character gets to see what life would be like if he had never existed. We never rally get to know fully how we are impacting others. You can make sure your impact is a positive one. A slight tweak to your behavior and attitude will make a world of difference. Know that if you hear a positive response from one person, there are probably many more having the same kind of experience through your energy. Think about the kind of impact you would like to have on others and the world. Make a plan for some actions you can take to head in that direction and then go for it!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lonely Toys

(Photo credit - Nathan Legakis)

Every time I teach yoga I drag a cart full of yoga mats, a bag of straps and two bags of yoga blocks into the studio. The gym where I teach does not have yoga supplies, so I bring my stash to every class for those that might not have a collection of the toys they might need. As we were moving into a pose that would be aided with straps and blocks, I encouraged the class to take some of the props I brought into class and use them for the pose. No one responded. I asked them if they knew the movie Toy Story. Many of them nodded their heads. "The toys were so lonely", I said. "No one was playing with them! My yoga props are so lonely. Won't you play with them - make them happy?" I teased the group and a few of them did finally grab some of the blocks and straps. I'm not sure why people won't use them. Maybe they think it is a sign of weakness to use a prop. They actually enhance the pose and assit you in enjoying the depth a bit more.

During this pandemic - the Corona virus - and the resulting wide open schedule - I had plenty of time to declutter my office and garage. It was amazing what I found. In my office I organized my books and discovered that because I couldn't find a book before, I had actually ordered a second copy of it not realizing I had it on the shelf buried in two layers of rows. I also found some art supplies - pencils and sketch pads - that I'd forgotten I owned. In the garage I discovered my old tennis rackets that were still in perfect shape except for the grips on the handles. An Amazon order later of grip tape and a few minutes of wrapping and I was ready to go again. All of these marvelous things just sitting there unused.

It's time to bring out the toys that were hiding and use them. What has been hidden away that you need to bring back in your life?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Boxing Yourself In

Since the locations where I teach yoga closed down for the Stay at Home orders, I've started to do a few Facebook Live yoga sessions. I vary them from an evening event to a crack of dawn class time and have many happy faithful followers. I always try to focus on something different in each class - maybe strength one day and more flexibility on another day. The other day I crisscrossed two mats since I am always turning and trying to show poses from different angles. I frequently set up like that in class as it keeps some padding under my body at all times. I also have a wonderful giant circular mat that I love - but it is cumbersome to drag to the gym all the time.

I received a comment after my last Facebook Live class that the yogi had seen a lot of things but had never seen what I did that day in the class. She learned something new. She loved the crisscrossed mats and was going to make that her norm from now on. Sometimes things become such a habit to us that we really don't think about them. I like it when people point out something that clicked with them. It is always something different for each person.

It's interesting to me that in most every class I've attended the yoga mats are all set up in the same direction (mine too) facing toward the instructor. In very crowded classes it is almost a necessity to make sure everyone can fit in. It seems to set up a barrier though, that you need to stay on your mat and you can't go outside of your "box".

There are many poses and activities in my class that require you to step off your mat or roll around on the floor. Most people jump right in and enjoy the activities. Some stay on their mats - not because they are concerned about being out of their box, but because they may not be into rolling around on the floor. In many cases, we don't realize how we have set up a boundary for ourselves and our activities. So many times we follow along without really thinking about if there is another way. This has been working so we don't think about other options.

What boundaries have you set up for yourself? Are you aware of any? Do they inhibit your activity? Your progress? How often do you just do things one way because that is the way you've always done it? What needs to change?


Monday, October 7, 2019

Lessons From "Yoga Prison"

Over the decades of my fitness hobby, I've taken hundreds of hours of training. In yoga alone I've counted over 250 hours from conferences, workshops and master classes. I've always loved a variety of styles - especially the power and hot yoga classes. In addition, I've always considered getting a RYT (registered yoga teacher) 200 hour credential but could never decide on the format I wanted to specialize in. Many of the world-renowned instructors I loved didn't offer the training and nearby studio offerings didn't fit my needs.
I occasionally visit yoga studios in midtown/downtown for a class and ended up on the mailing list of Black Swan Yoga. Earlier this year they advertised a weekend of workshops with Benjamin Sears. I researched him and found he had an amazing background of several 500 hour certifications in a variety of yoga formats I've practiced in and loved as well as being one of the top master instructors in the world to take training from. I decided to check out his workshops on Easter Sunday. By the following Wednesday I was signed up for his advanced 200 hour teacher training in the South of France - Sacred Geometry Vinyasa.
The day I arrived at the Villa of our master instructor for the yoga training, I stepped out onto the balcony to see the view. I broke down and cried. It was SO beautiful. I could not believe that I was going to get to experience my training in this place - up in the French Alps with a view of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
Soon though - I was wrapped up into a daily ritual of early rising, heading to the yoga room by 7:30, warm up exercises and class starting sharply at 8:00 every day. Most days class went until 11:00 or later and we were released for lunch - and study time. (My few precious moments of pool and sun time to renew my soul.) Back at it at 1:00 until 5:00-7:45 in the evening for more yoga, strength training and workshops, an amazing meal, more hours of study, quiet time at 9:00 and early to bed (by my standards) with lights out and shutters down by 10:00.
I jokingly coined it "Yoga Prison" because of the schedule, no alcohol, chocolate, bread, sugar or processed food and that we were not allowed to leave - but I actually loved all of it. It was definitely more like "Yoga Heaven". I'd like to share some of the lessons I learned in "Yoga Prison" for work and life!


Stay curious - We get ourselves in trouble through assumptions. Assumptions lead us to believe we are right. This closes down our desire to be open and hear the other side and other people's opinions. It leads us to believe we already have the best answer so we do not explore other options. Our creativity, progress and innovation are stifled. I've taken training from countless instructors and yoga masters, yet, I promised to approach this adventure with a beginner mind. Even though I've been teaching for close to thirty years, I showed up ready to learn whatever I could and to put aside for the time being some of the practices and opinions I'd picked up over the years. Always remain curious - we don't know what we don't know.
Intention - When you set your mind to something it is easier to stay committed and focused. I was determined to succeed in this training. Whatever they threw at me I was all in. I decided when I signed up without any doubts. Another attendee was surprised with the intensity of the training and was wavering for quite a few days in the beginning. This makes it hard to go all in. Think back to the "burn the boats" story. A commander had his soldiers burn the boats when they arrived on the shore of the enemy. There was no retreating. They were all in. Reflect on the past when you stepped out to take a risk. Were you all in? What happened when you weren't? Decide and go all in!
Age doesn't matter - It is all in your head. We tell ourselves we are too old or it's too late or we are unqualified in some way and our mindset prevents us from even attempting so many things we could be successful at. Another instructor at the training was the same age as me. We took great pride in doing everything those 20, 30 or even 40 years younger than us were performing in training. Don't limit yourself with your thoughts.
Technology Trap - No phones were allowed at our meals. When I was growing up, we sat down to dinner as a family every night at the same time, enjoying each other's company and the conversation. It was so wonderful to experience this in training. There were over twenty of us enjoying each other, conversations and the amazing food cooked by the private chef. Are you fully present at your meals at home? - or your lunches with co-workers at work? Set some boundaries around phone use. It does take courage to be the one to ask for it. Try it - you will like it.
Silence - We escaped "yoga prison" for one morning for a hike midway through the 16 days of training. The night before, after an evening of self-exploration and singing, we went into complete silence. It was slightly challenging with two roommates - but we found we were able to communicate quite well with hand signals. Everyone walked about the villa with a knowing nod and a smile on their face, enjoying the beauty of our surroundings in quiet reflection. It was such a delicious experience the next morning, to hike in silence too. Without talking you reflected more on what you saw and heard and were able to enjoy the experience at a much deeper level. We really thought about what would be the first thing we said once we could talk again. Our silence was broken at lunch after the hike. We all wished it had lasted longer. What a great reminder to stay focused on the present moment instead of hurrying to get to the next thing and missing where you are completely - at work or home.
I encourage you to reflect on lessons you learn from encounters with others, experiences and places you visit. Everything and everyone has a life lesson for us if we only take the time to savor it and make changes moving forward.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What's SUP?!! The Day I Almost Didn't SUP

In July, we visited family in Minnesota - the land of 10,000 lakes. I was talking with my niece, Amy, about plans for the week and we started to throw out ideas around what we could do to enjoy the area. SUP - Stand Up Paddleboarding came up as an option. Neither of us had ever done it so the idea sounded fun, adventurous and a tiny bit scary all packed into one. I suggested we could do some yoga on the boards too, as teaching yoga was one of my many treasured jobs. Amy checked in with her sister by phone for tips and then checked out which lakes had the sport option. We opted for the closer lake. Her sister assured us it was easy to pick up the techniques and the rental company would surely give us a lesson on how to SUP. So we changed into our bathing suits and headed to the lake, still a little nervous underneath our excited facades.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and many people were out enjoying the lake, hanging out on the beach and in the water, We checked in at the equipment rental shack, but were dismayed to find that the wind speed was above the limit for paddleboarding and they couldn't rent to us. Our first reaction was disappointment - we were physically and mentally prepared. Then there were a few seconds of relief - at least on my part - that we weren't going to have to scare ourselves out on the water. We considered just hanging out on the beach to wait and see if the wind would die down. Then Amy, with her growth mindset in high gear, (mine usually is - but that day I was comfortable sitting back and not growing!), said - "let's check with the other lake, maybe their rules are different". She called them and sure enough - their wind speed limit was a lot higher, (me - silently questioning if that was a good thing or a bad thing), and we headed off to the other lake. 

We arrived at the new location, a bit busier but just as beautiful (what lake isn't!), and headed toward the rental shack. Once we were checked in, we were directed to the paddleboards on the beach. The young man let us know the guy down by the water would show us what to do. We grabbed boards and headed toward him. He set mine out on the water and told me to step up, placing my feet on the markings on the board and said, "Ok - go!". "What about my lesson?", I exclaimed, "That's it! Just go!", he replied. And so I did. Amy was right behind me, and soon ahead of me though I tried to keep my paddling rate even with hers. It was a lot easier than we both expected. Though there were a few times when the wind blew us off course toward a pile of anchored boats or the side of a bridge (maybe that wind speed was a little high!) - but never too much to handle. We had a great time exploring the lakes and even tried some yoga without falling off. We were quite proud of ourselves. 

I mentioned the growth and fixed mindset above. Fixed is where you believe things are as they are and your personal qualities and capabilities are carved in stone. A growth mindset believes that you can develop your qualities through your efforts, strategies and help from others. I like to apply this here - where my temporary fixed mindset believed our options were limited by one lake's rules and I threw up my hands accepting our fate while my niece's mindset didn't stop there and she set out to explore other options. (What was holding me back? - a little bit of ridiculous fear!). The growth mindset opens up the thinking to be creative and solve problems. It can be applied to our paddleboarding adventure in another way. It wasn't a skill we had and we approached it as if we could learn it anyway. We continued to express that mindset by watching others paddle and imitating their expert moves. 

Your mindset may fluctuate from fixed to growth. If you stay aware you can steer it toward growth every time. What area of your life is in need of a mindset adjustment?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Flip It - Like a Pancake!!

Occasionally I treat my yoga class with a format I've dubbed Sock Day! I bring dozens of clean socks to class and give each participant a pair. During several parts of class we put on the socks and do yoga poses, sliding from one challenging pose to another (i.e. from a forward one legged lift sliding both legs back behind us for a plank), playing with creative plank jumping jacks and with other vigorous atypical yoga poses. It is a great fun challenge for all. 

One member delighted in the format and claimed we needed to do it more often. So the next time I knew he was coming to class I decided to bring my socks for a Sock Day. But I had been working late into the night for weeks on a work project and didn't have time to make up more Sock Day pose challenges. So - I decided that we would still do a Sock Day but the members would suggest poses when my list was exhausted. 

And so they did.

And they were great ideas that we played with until we couldn't slide any more.
I flipped the classroom and made the students the teacher. It turned out to be a great idea that I will definitely use again.

I actually heard about it years ago at a training conference. A gentleman relayed a story in which they had a speaker set up for a session at a conference. The speaker didn't show up and they were stressed out about what they would do with the 200+ people gathered to hear him speak. The host ended up having each table in the ballroom select one subject from the missing speaker's agenda and discuss their tips on the topic. Each table ended up sharing their best tip with the whole room. It turned out to be a great alternative. (The speaker had an emergency and couldn't make the event). The attendees became the experts in the room - flipped!

So what can you flip in your organization, during your next speech, or in your work or home project to add creativity and a new twist?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Through the Eye of the BEE-Holder

My husband is a great joke teller. He can roll with a slew of them and entertain for hours. Years ago I had him train me in joke telling. He would tell me a joke. I would listen intently. Then I would try to repeat it back. He would fill in what I  missed and I would try again. Eventually I would get it perfect and we would move on to learning another joke. I got to the point that I could roll a bunch off the tip of my tongue but without practice I'm back to one or two here and there. 

He recently told a silly joke - let's see if I can remember it. 
Question - 
"If you are holding a bee in your hand, what is in your eye"?
Answer - 
"Beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder!"
Too cute, right? I know you will be able to use that one when a clean joke is required.

Our niece coaches a women's hockey team at Stevenson University in Maryland. Students from the hockey team, golf and basketball teams and a few non athletes from the school volunteered to come to Houston to work with Habitat for Humanity. They spent the last week up early every morning working til dinner time rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Harvey. They did their own fundraising to make enough money to make the trip - 28 of them in all. My niece asked my husband if he would cook for them on their last night and of course he said yes. He spent two days cooking brisket, chicken, pulled pork and stuffed jalapenos along with his famous macaroni and cheese in preparation. I contributed chocolate chip cookies and brownies. But I also did a few major things to the house that I have been procrastinating on. It feels so great to make those things happen.

When the group arrived they kept making comments on how beautiful our house was, how cool the stepping stone that was shaped like Texas on the front lawn was, how nice the backyard and pool were, etc... Everything was new to them and everything was cool to them. It was a delight to see my old house through fresh young eyes. As they pointed out different things I was a bit surprised about the things that had become common place to me - like the stepping stone - yet with their perspective it all became cool and new to me. They were "bee-holders!"

It was a great reminder to approach each day and each experience as something new and exciting to enjoy as we sometimes lose that "beauty in the eye of the beholder" perspective. 

A recent MasterMind group call reflected on the topic of enthusiasm. We were to report on how we had incorporated enthusiasm into our daily lives. The next time I taught yoga I started the class like the young college students approached my home - with fresh new eyes and an enthusiastic perspective - and that made all the difference in my class and my day and my week - as it will in yours.